Local government’s important role in local and regional economic development: report

By intouch posted 03 October 2017 23:59


A new report has highlighted the varying roles and levels of engagement that councils play in regards to leadership, organisation and delivery of local and regional economic development in Australia.

According to the University of Technology Sydney’s Centre for Local Government (UTS CLG) report, the promotion of economic development is a relatively recent feature of the activity of local government in Australia.

Businessman-using-the-tablet-on-cityscape-blurred-background_Business-concept-815420244_784x450.jpeg“The principle that economic development is a co-responsibility tends to be accepted by all tiers of governments and social and economic actors. However, how this translates into practice remains ambiguous and contested,” says Professor Lee Pugalis, co-author of the report. 

Professor Roberta Ryan, Director of UTS CLG, says there is huge diversity of economic development roles across the landscape of local government.

"For the majority of councils it remains an ‘additional’ rather than ‘general’ function, although this can often downplay their positive role in local and regional economic development," she says. 

“This research has brought to the forefront the importance of internal and external perceptions and how these shape the role of councils in economic development.”

Each tier of government is involved in promoting economic development, although in distinct ways that do not necessarily complement one another.

The report’s findings support a strong case for advocating the involvement of all tiers of government in the pursuit of local and regional economic development.

“The local government sector has an important role to play in promoting economic development, but one that evades a singular model. This poses a distinct challenge to higher tiers of government in terms of how they interface with specific councils as well as how councils interface with their stakeholders,” Professor Pugalis says.

The report provides local governments and their stakeholders with research and evidence to help them to better understand regional and local economic development in Australia, and how it can be improved.

Local government’s economic development roles: stakeholder perceptions

Infrastructure and assets

- Infrastructure development and maintenance
- Connecting business with infrastructure e.g. councils may own airports, have primary responsibility for roads, provide ICT technology etc.
- Develop and implement large scale projects in collaboration with other levels of government and with funding from state and federal agencies.
- Use of assets (e.g. buildings) to promote economic development.

Land use planning

- Devising ‘business-friendly’ and ‘fast-track’ planning procedures and systems.
- Working with businesses to help them negotiate council requirements particularly with regard to planning applications.
- Developing Master Plans to support economic growth and sustainability.

Supporting businesses

- Acting as a ‘shop front’ for investors and other levels of government.
- Grants for small business (e.g. innovation grants).
- Whole-of-council approach to help support the attraction and development of business.
- Facilitating communication between businesses and council.


- Facilitate networking, learning and opportunities for collaboration amongst economic actors.
- Create governance structures, partnerships and forums to foster collaboration.

Lobbying and promotion
- Lobbying state and federal government for support, investment and resources.
- Promoting their area to a broader audience (e.g. tourists, investors etc.).

Strategies and plans

- Strategic planning processes, workforce planning and the production of economic strategies and associated documents.

Business case development, evidence and information

- Undertaking feasibility and capacity studies.
- Develop business cases.
- Sector-based research, business surveys, data gathering and monitoring, including economic profiles and economic assessments.
- Stakeholder mapping exercises.

Read the report here. 



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