Australia: Why Councillors view Compliance Sections as important pillars of the Council

Last Updated: 10 August 2018
Article by Anne Wood

Here are the reasons why Councillors are becoming increasingly aware that the Compliance sections in their Local Governments provide a really important supporting role to the Councillors and their decisions.

What is a Compliance section and what do the officers in it do?

Historically some Local Government Councillors have viewed the compliance sections of their local governments are being something to be endured rather than celebrated, however that is changing.

As Local Government Councillors are prevented from becoming involved in the day to day running of their local government by the Local Government Act 1995 the compliance section can be somewhat of a mystery and a section that Councillors only ever receive complainants about. So what are the functions a compliance section or compliance officer performs?

Compliance Sections / Officers generally perform the following roles –

  • implementation of decisions made by the Council;
  • being the first point of contact for any complaints that someone is not obeying the rules (policy or legislation) set by the Council – thereby preventing Councillors from being the first port of call for a complaint;
  • investigating the allegation and determining whether there is any truth to it;
  • attempting to negotiate a resolution to the problem or advising the complainant that there is no problem with whatever development is occurring etc;
  • enforcing the Councils decisions via Direction Notices, Building Orders and the like; and
  • finally, commencing and conducting prosecutions if the resident will simply not obey the decisions of the Council which exist in local laws or planning schemes or the decisions of the State set out in the Food Act 2008 and the like.

It can be seen from the above functions that Compliance Officers perform a vital role for the Council and Councillors. Unless the Council's decisions are enforced, the chances that the decisions made will be followed (or even known) by the public is significantly reduced.

Compliance Officers also perform a vital role in ensuring that there is someone for Councillors to refer complaints from residents about other resident's actions without the risk of becoming involved in the day to day running of the Council in contravention of the Local Government Act 1995.

Why Councillors love their compliance sections

Compliance Officers and Compliance sections are vital parts of any local government who both ensure the Council's decisions have effect and assist local government councilors in ensuring they do not breach the Local Government Act 1995 by becoming involved in the day to day running of their local government.

Without someone performing the compliance role the number of decisions a given Council could make to determine how they want their communities built environment to look like would be significantly reduced.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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