September 2021 – A Message from the Chairman
The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC
Go Get your Future!
Greetings to all in Local Government!
Not even during WW1 or WW11 have communities had their lives so disrupted because of COVID-19, and the way many Governments are responding to this virus. In many municipalities, it is like a pincer movement is in place!
On one hand so many of the businesses including hospitality, tourism, agricultural along with community activities and sport, have been suspended. Increasing numbers of businesses and individuals are seeking support just to survive; businesses crippled and, in many cases, lost. Any hope of returning to a consistent way of life seems hard to imagine. On the other hand, it is difficult to recruit labour to maintain basic services.
While circumstances vary from State to State and municipality to municipality, it is hard to predict how and when our community will return to a degree of normality. Will it be 70% or 80% of those who are eligible vaccinated? But how will governments respond if after achieving these milestones, there remain widespread cases of the virus among the vaccinated and unvaccinated?
As a consequence of restrictions maintenance of infrastructure is falling behind, as is the opportunity to start new projects. This is made worse because of government restrictions on the ability of people, contractors and others to move around within and between States.
Then there is the unanswerable question at the moment – what will be the impact of the pandemic on municipal revenues this financial year and beyond if communities are still living with restrictions?
I am an optimist, but I am seeing extraordinary damage being rendered on so many sectors of our community and particularly our children who are in the process of being educated. For all the challenges we face, I know we will get to a place where we will come to the realisation we have to live with this virus.
The community and Councils who have tightened expenditure over the last 18 months will ultimately open their purse strings. The economists indicate the economy is recovering strongly. Yes, but from a low base, and many businesses will simply not re-open. In particular the demand and cost of labour will rise post COVID to cope with pent up demand.
So, for Councils my advice now is to continue to do as much as your budgeted works allow you to do. Secondly on larger projects use this time to complete all the planning, design, approval and costings you can. Lock in your contractors now so when restrictions are lifted you will be “shovel ready” to commence your projects.
Bear in mind there is an equal demand on the east coast of Australia for labour for all major infrastructure projects. Lagging projects will soak up labour as never before to make up for time lost. In short, I am saying, all Councils should go flat out, as much as the restrictions will allow, to prepare for a re-igniting of the economy and community. Use this time to do as much as possible!
I have often said, and it is a truism, if you can survive and grow in tough times, you should thrive in good.
We need Councillors and council administrations now to be bold.
To use these challenging times to build the sustainability of Council and communities. Councils that invest now will become the pace and trend setters maybe for the rest of this century they will be the councils where the best administrators will want to work.
As I said earlier, I am an optimist, but to be so you must be realistic about the circumstances in which we live. We have never lived in circumstances such as those caused by this pandemic and certainly not for such a sustained period.
That said, now it the time to strike, to be bold!
Go get your future and stay well!
The Hon Jeff Kennett AC
CT Management Group