Legal issues for Elected Members

Register of Interests - Primary & Ordinary returns

Council Members must provide information to be held in a Register of Interests which is kept by every Council and is a public document. Each year every Council Member is required to enter up to date information in the Register by lodging of a 'return'. There are different types of 'returns', being 'primary' and 'ordinary' returns, and the information required on each return varies somewhat. The Local Government Act 1999 specifies the type of information that must be disclosed and limits the way in which the publicly accessible Register may be used.

(When members are first elected to Council they must submit a 'primary return' within thirty days of appointment, from then on ordinary returns are completed by Councillors annually).

Information which a Member must provide includes sources of income, positions held in companies and various bodies, and details regarding gifts, assets and debts. The philosophy of this statutory requirement for disclosure of private interests is the promotion of transparency in the performance of public functions and the accountability of Council Members to their electors.

When a CEO or a prescribed officer is first appointed to a Council or appointed after a period of absence during which they were not an officer of the Council they must submit a 'primary return' within thirty days of appointment.

Conflict of Interest

There are specific provisions and requirement of the Local Government Act 1999 which deal with the issue of conflict of interest in relation to Council Members. Council Members must complete primary/ordinary returns which form part of the 'Register of Interests' which is a publicly available document. Information to be provided in these returns includes a declaration by a Council Member of any pecuniary or non-pecuniary substantial interest which the Member considers might appear to raise a material conflict between their private interests and their public duties. In addition, Members are under a duty to declare any conflict of interest in a matter which comes before the Council (and any Council Committee of which they are a member) for decision. Severe penalties apply if Members do not declare and take correct legal steps on any conflict of interest which arises.