The Shire of Douglas had previously existed as a local government entity from 1903 until 2008, when the Queensland State Government announced that it was to amalgamate with the Cairns City Council to form the Cairns Regional Council (CRC).
The amalgamations were unpopular in several areas of the State and action groups lobbied for them to be reversed. In June 2012, the Queensland Minister for Local Government (the Hon. David Crisafulli – MP) appointed the Queensland Boundaries Commissioner to investigate the viability of former shires wishing to de-amalgamate from larger regional councils. The Minister received 19 proposals, five of which were referred to the Commissioner.
One of these was the submission made by the Friends of Douglas Shire action group, presenting their case for de-amalgamation of the former Douglas Shire from Cairns Regional Council. The submission is available online:
In considering the submissions, the Commissioner requested that the Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC) – as an independent 3rd-party – undertake a detailed financial analysis to assess the viability and sustainability elements of the submission. QTC’s report, and the Commissioners subsequent analysis and recommendation can be viewed by clicking the links below:
In December 2012, the Minister granted the electors of the former Douglas Shire a poll on possible de-amalgamation from Cairns Regional Council. A new Regulation was introduced to to set out the way in which the de-amalgamation polls were to be carried out; this legislation can be viewed by clicking the following link:
The poll was held on 9 March 2013, and a majority of electors (57.61%) voted in favour of de-amalgamation.
De-amalgamation polls were also passed in the former Livingstone, Mareeba and Noosa Shire Council areas.
How will the De-Amalgamation work?
The State Government has introduced a special Regulation to set the rules for the de-amalgamations. The Regulation is available for public view at the Queensland Government’s legislation website:
In addition to the Regulation, the State Government has also published a methodology which sets out the process by which the de-amalgamations are to happen. The Department of Department of Local Government, Community Recovery and Resilience is the Government agency tasked with overseeing the de-amalgamation process, and a copy of the Transfer Methodology is available from their website:
The new Councils will come into being from the 1st January 2014.
The task of creating the new Council within such a tight timeframe is a challenging one, and the legislation specifies three key roles to manage and/or guide with the process.
The Transfer Manager has overall responsibility for setting up the new Council, acting in accordance with the “Local Government (De-Amalgamation Implementation) Regulation 2013” and the “Local Government Act 2009”. They must take all steps necessary to achieve separation of the new Council from the continuing Cairns Regional Council, and to ensure that it is business-ready and able to commence operations from changeover day (1st January 2014).
For Douglas, Minister Crisafulli has appointed Mr Jeff Tate, who has over 18 years as a local government CEO, including 14 years as CEO of the largest Council in South Australia.
As Transfer Manager, Mr Tate’s responsibilities include:
- preparing a plan to guide to de-amalgamation process
- preparing and maintaining a transfer action plan (TAP)
- managing the transfer of contractual arrangements, assets, liabilities and documents
- establishing a service delivery plan to ensure continuity of business and service
- developing an interim organisational structure
- managing the transfer of plant and equipment and procuring new plant and equipment where necessary
- developing an interim budget for consideration by the new council.
- establishing business systems, including:
- information and communications technology
- data and knowledge management systems
- corporate software applications
- financial and asset management systems
- property and rating systems
- regulatory systems
- human resource management and payroll systems
The Transfer Committee’s role is to decide on the assets and liabilities that will transfer to the new Council, to settle agreements between CRC and Douglas for works and services, decide de-amalgamation costs (as defined in the Regulation) to be met by Douglas, and make other decisions considered necessary or appropriate for the de-amalgamation to occur.
For Douglas, this committee consists of Mr Peter Tabulo (CEO, Cairns Regional Council) and Mr Jeff Tate (Transfer Manager representing the new Douglas Shire Council).
The Transfer Committee meets as required. (Initially fortnightly, but with meetings expected to become more frequent as the de-amalgamation date nears).
You can download copies of the Transfer Committee meeting minutes below.
Transfer Meeting Number 1 Held 29th May 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 2 Held 15th July 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 3 Held 16th August 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 4 Held 23rd August 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 5 Held 2nd September 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 6 Held 9th September 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 7 Held 16th September 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 8 Held 23rd September 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 9 Held 30th September 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 10 Held 1st October 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 11 Held 22nd October 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 12 Held 28th October 2013
Transfer Meeting Number 13 Held 18th November 2013
Local Advisory Committee
The Transfer Manager also has access to a Local Advisory Committee appointed by the Minister to provide advice on matters requested by the Transfer Manager. The Transfer Manager must meet with the Local Advisory Committee at least once monthly until the changeover day (1st January 2014) but may meet more frequently if required.
The members of the Douglas De-amalgamation Advisory Committee are:
- the Member for Cook, Mr David Kempton MP,
- a representative of the Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce, Mr Kym Rowley
- a representative of Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree, Mr Doug Ryan.
The minutes of the Local Advisory Committee can be found here:
Local Advisory Committee Meeting Held On 11th June 2013
Local Advisory Committee Meeting Held On 8th July 2013
Local Advisory Committee Meeting Held On 1 August 2013
Local Advisory Committee Meeting Held On 16 September 2013
Local Advisory Committee Meeting Held On 28th October 2013
Financial Due Diligence process
A key part of the de-amalgamation process will be the division of financial assets between the two Councils. As part of its de-amalgamation viability analysis (see link above) , the Queensland Treasury Corporation developed a starting financial position (as at June 2012) for the new Douglas Shire Council and the continuing Cairns Regional Council (CRC).
The Transfer Committee has agreed that a review of this QTC work should form part of the due diligence work leading up to the establishment of Douglas on 1 January 2014.
The Financial Due Diligence Working Group, comprising representatives from both Douglas and CRC, has been established and tasked with reviewing the QTC methodology and preparing a revised starting financial position for Douglas and CRC as at June 2013. The working group’s report is expected by the end of November, and will be subject to a review by an independent body chosen by the Transfer Committee. For a copy of the group’s role and the project principles, high level methodology and deliverables click here.
To finalise the division of financial assets for both Councils, further analysis of transactions for the period 1 July 2013 to 31 December 2013 will be undertaken and this work is anticipated to be completed by February/March 2014.
Information and Communication Technology
The decision has been made to proceed with a new Information Technology (IT) system based primarily around the Authority Local Government enterprise suite from Civica Pty Ltd, and hosted within Civica’s Cloud environment. CRC already uses components of the Authority suite and is in the process of implementing several other components; the decision for Douglas to proceed with Authority was therefore highly pragmatic from an implementation cost and effort perspective.
Commissioning and implementing a full ICT environment for the new Council is highly challenging in the time available, and an IT Project Manager has been appointed to lead the implementation.