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LGNZ sees potential in future-focused report but change can’t be one-sided

Local Government New Zealand says the Future for Local Government Panel’s interim report is a great start and can go further, including considering the role of central government. The next critical step is hearing from the sector.

Local Government New Zealand says the Future for Local Government Panel’s interim report is a great start and can go further, including considering the role of central government. The next critical step is hearing from the sector.

LGNZ President Stuart Crosby congratulated the government’s Panel on delivering a robust scene-setting report, which canvassed many of the issues councils have been struggling with under the existing local government legislative framework.

“The report has opened a door – we want to wedge that door open even further. The challenge ahead is for the Panel and local government, together with iwi/Māori, to work extremely closely over the next year to identify where we can leverage councils’ connection with communities to deliver meaningful change.

“There is a huge opportunity to rebalance the roles of central and local government, and that means all parties have to be open to changing their roles if we want to achieve different outcomes for communities.”

LGNZ National Council member and Young Elected Member Co-Chair Lan Pham says the challenge to the sector is to raise their gaze from today’s under-performing status quo, to imagine the possibilities for tomorrow.

“It’s a pretty rare and privileged opportunity to be able to reimagine a system of local government system that best serves our people, our environment and future generations,” she says.

“It’s absolutely critical that we seize the opportunity to get this right – and see the potential of this reform to deliver the right outcomes for our communities at the right scale. For example, there could be more council involvement in delivering housing, health and other social services to the right communities at the right time. 

“Councils are more than a stakeholder – they’re the cornerstone of local democracy. Councils play a critical role because they amplify and give effect to the voice of the people at a local level.”

National Council member Sam Broughton says he agrees with the broad direction of the report, which provides a helpful base for leveraging a national conversation.

“The opportunities identified by the Panel show there is huge scope for improvement, which is encouraging. Meaningful change will require both central and local government letting go of some traditional roles and working far closer in many others,” he says.

“It’s great to see the Panel’s commitment to considering whether councils have the appropriate funding and financing tools to meet our responsibilities.”

Mr Crosby says LGNZ will be leading our own conversation with the sector, to feed back into the panel’s process, as well as encouraging councils to have their say directly.

“The wave of proposed reforms is placing significant pressure on councils. We’ll be supporting councils and listening to their views on the best way to engage with this reform

“We’ll be championing local democracy and local governance, and the critical role councils play in the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

“One of the truisms of local government in New Zealand is that councils are creatures of statute. This report is yet another acknowledgment that we need to modernise the legislative framework under which we operate if we want to really drive community wellbeing outcomes.”

LGNZ’s more detailed first-take response to the report can be found here.