Councils as Placemakers
As the level of government closest to its communities, Local Government has the greatest sense of place – that meaningful bond between people and where they live that helps them imagine a better future.
In 2019, the Regional Development Australia Tasmania Committee surveyed councils to get an understanding of their role as place-makers. We wanted to know what infrastructure projects they were contemplating.
[Photo credit: S. Group]
The survey returned an impressive 308 projects worth $1.244 Billion. The projects at delivery stage (i.e. procuring for or constructing) totalled $389.5 Million for which economic modelling showed creates 1,744 direct jobs in construction and 1,153 indirect jobs in other industries and with multiplier effects add an extra $193.90 Million to the Tasmanian economy.
It is not just roads and rubbish. Local Government uses its sense of place to identify and deliver traditional and innovative infrastructure. Community and recreation facilities are priorities as well as revitalising town centres.
[Photo credit: Pete Harmsen]
An investment doesn’t have to be large to have an impact. A new playground may not have a huge budget, but it connects people, improves health and well-being, increases local pride in place and provides an activity for visitors.
Many of the identified projects are in council’s long term financial strategy. Some were fully funded in capital works budgets, some partially, and some were concepts being researched. Not all concepts come to fruition, while this can lead to unrealistic expectations of forthcoming investment, the demonstration of flexibility by councils to deliver within their means is a positive.
The data tells us is that Local Government is not only a highly capable manager of infrastructure projects, but also has a strong commitment to ensuring the place they are responsible for is the best place it can be.
[Photo credit: Alastair Bett]
The finding of most significance was the variation with how each council maintains data on projects which made completing the survey onerous and consequently led to issues with creating a consistent dataset.
To make repeating the research simpler there would need to be standardisation between councils on maintaining data on new infrastructure projects and recording capital expenditure budgets in their long term financial plans.
An assumption that could be tested if place-making information was available is that councils, and perhaps other levels of government, could leverage the information and collaborate to deliver new infrastructure and that they would find efficiency and productivity gains by doing so.
Thank you to our Local Government partners who supported us to undertake this research. With this information, we feel we are in a stronger position than before to advocate for the Local Government sector and the great work they do for Tasmania.
RDA Tasmania collaborated with the University of Tasmania intern program to work with a talented student who could join our office and help analyse and interpret the data. Thank you to the University of Tasmania and their student Suqi Lim for their contribution to this research.
[Photo credit: Adam Gibson]