Short-term fix for Coober Pedy’s long-term problem

The state government has appointed an interim administrator for the debt-ridden Coober Pedy council, but the search for a long-term solution in the outback town remains unresolved.

Feb 02, 2023, updated Feb 02, 2023
Coober Pedy. Photo: Stephanie Richards/InDaily

Coober Pedy. Photo: Stephanie Richards/InDaily

Local Government Minister Geoff Brock today announced the appointment of former Flinders Ranges Council CEO Colin Davies as interim administrator of Coober Pedy District Council.

The council has been suspended as an elected body since January 2019 due to serious governance and debt issues. It still faces debts of around $10m to various creditors including the Local Government Financing Authority and energy company EDL.

The state government has been looking to appoint a new Coober Pedy administrator since October 2022 after the current administrator, Tim Jackson, indicated he would leave the role.

Jackson, who has been administrator since January 24, 2019, left the role today. He has previously described his attempts to fix the outback town’s finances as “extremely difficult and quite traumatic”.

Davies was CEO of Flinders Ranges Council from 2009 to 2019 and will take over from Jackson until the appointment of a long-term Coober Pedy council administrator is finalised, according to Brock’s office.

Colin Davies. Photo: supplied

The state government expects a permanent appointment to be finalised “by the end of March 2023”.

“I expect to provide more information on the new administration later this month when the appointment process is completed,” Brock said in a statement.

“Resolving the ongoing issues in Coober Pedy presents a significant challenge, due to the Council’s continuing poor financial position, and its responsibility to properly manage the provision of water and power in the town.

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“As interim administrator, Mr Davies will be required to report to me at the end of his term, advising me on the governance issues that remain to be resolved, including any views or recommendations that he may have formed during his tenure about the finances of the Council and a way forward.”

Davies retired in 2019 but remains involved in the local government sector as a consultant.

He is also a former deputy chair of Regional Development Australia Far North.

Brock said he would be visiting Coober Pedy again next month and hoped to “return it to an elected local government as soon as possible”.

The Malinauskas Government last year extended the Coober Pedy District Council’s suspension as an elected body until 2026.

A top-level state government taskforce headed by the Department of Premier and Cabinet is currently examining the town’s problems and potential solutions.

Jackson has previously called on the state government to buy up the council’s energy and water assets, worth between $12m and $14m.

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