One Size Does Not Fit All: The Special Case of Remote Small Local Councils in Outback Queensland

“Despite the recent limited forced consolidation experienced by some RAPAD councils, we find that the ‘tyranny of distance’ afflicting RAPAD members means that it is not amenable to ‘top-down’ reform measures, like council amalgamation, and policy makers should instead focus on ‘local solutions to local problems’ and encourage feasible forms of resource sharing.”

The analysis of Australian local government reform almost invariably focuses on systemic changes that can be wrought by the application of various policy instruments, like the structural reform of the scale of local councils or changes to the enabling legislation governing local government. Scholars typically use this approach and differentiate the efficacy of reform measures according to classifications of council by generic type.

While this approach has been exceedingly fruitful in the past, this paper argues that small, remote and isolated Australian local authorities are sui generis in the sense that they are not amenable to standard reform policies because their unique circumstances and special characteristics. The paper considers the case of local shires in the Central West outback region of Queensland that comprise the Remote Areas Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) group of councils and attempts to draw some general lessons for local government policymakers.

Published in Local Government Studies | B. Dollery | 2010,,