Research study: Why Local Government Matters

Councils band together to find out what really matters

The councils of Bellingen, Kempsey and Port Macquarie-Hastings, through their membership of the Mid-North Coast Joint Organisation of Councils (MNCJO), are banding together to find out what really matters to their communities.

Why Local Government Matters, a ground-breaking piece of social research designed by the Centre for Local Government at the University of Technology Sydney, will be conducted across the Mid-North Coast region. Since the first nationwide study in 2015, the research has now been run for several councils across Australia.

A randomly selected group from across the Mid-North Coast will be polled throughout February to find out what is most important about the work councils do. The findings will provide Port Macquarie-Hastings, Bellingen and Kempsey councils with insights on the value they provide to their communities and identify their own strengths. The results will also be compared to the rest of Australia to find out what makes the Mid-North Coast unique and how councils contribute to this.

Mayor of Kempsey and MNCJO Chair Liz Campbell emphasised the value of working regionally on the research.

“Port Macquarie-Hastings, Bellingen and Kempsey all have special qualities that make us unique and this survey will ask our communities what those are. But we also share a lot in common with our neighbours and that is why it’s important we do this research together.

“We know when councils across the region join resources we can make a bigger difference to the lives of our communities. Already we’ve been able to deliver substantial benefits through the MNCJO by working together on things like this research. While the survey will find out what matters to our individual communities, it will also find out what matters equally across the region. It is those things that will shape what the MNCJO councils work together on in the future and how we will go about it,” Cr Campbell said.

Craig Swift-McNair, General Manager of Port-Macquarie Hastings Council and MNCJO Executive Officer, said, “this research will be hugely influential – whether it’s developing new policies, planning for the future wellbeing of our community, or investing in new services and infrastructure – the findings will shape our priorities and every decision we make as a council”. 

Professor Roberta Ryan, Director of CLG, said “It’s great to see MNCJO councils joining forces to find out what really matters to their communities. Often we find communities are simply asked whether they think government is doing a good job or not. But that paints a pretty simplistic picture of the complex business of local government and the unique role councils play in our communities.

“We know from previous versions of this survey that when councils understand what is most important about the work they do, it adds a whole new perspective. For instance, some councils can spend a lot of time and money on things that might not make much difference to their communities. Those resources can be better spent elsewhere to make sure councils are delivering value and supporting their communities in the best possible way. The communities of Port Macquarie-Hastings, Bellingen and Kempsey will all benefit from this new layer of information and sharper focus it provides for their councils,” Professor Ryan said.

The survey findings will be made available later this year.