Published: September 14, 2016
In this edition of Frontpage News we bring you the latest on the Local Government Excellence Programme, introduce a new guide to understanding risk financing in a changing world, and provide an update on the innovative approach to tackling the negative impacts of freedom camping taken by local government and the tourism industry.
We also provide updates on current workstreams, share some local wins and local government stories in the media.
A new programme aimed at lifting and demonstrating the value of local government kicked off this week, with the first council undergoing independent assessment.
Upper Hutt City Council is the first of 21 councils signed up to go through the Local Government Excellence Programme in its first year, with three more to be assessed before the elections.
The system is aimed at demonstrating and improving the value and services of councils by measuring indicators across leadership, finance, service delivery and community engagement.
Participating councils will be assessed by independent experts every three years, given an overall rating on a nine point scale from AAA to C, and the results publicised. Councils will discuss results with communities and use the assessments to plan improvements. The system will give communities a clear and independent picture of how well their council is performing in serving the community, and councils information on where they can improve.
Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy says his council was keen to be involved at the earliest opportunity.
“There is an expectation that we all deliver best practice to our customers, our ratepayers, and we need to perform at the level that’s required,” Mr Guppy says.
“The private sector has been doing this for many years. It’s about learning from each other and also from outside the sector.”
“This programme will help the sector help communities and we will certainly be a stronger organisation for going through a process like this.”
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says the programme has been a long time in the making and has been developed in consultation with the sector.
“Whether it’s financial decision-making, the way we communicate and engage with the community, our governance and leadership or our service delivery and asset management, all councils will likely have areas they can improve on,” Mr Yule says.
“Most councils will no doubt also have areas they excel in. The Excellence Programme will highlight both the good and the areas for progress, and chart a way forward for local government improvement. Council best practice will be widely shared with the sector.”
Upper Hutt will be followed by Horowhenua District Council, Porirua City Council and Queenstown Lakes District Council in the first tranche of assessments, with 17 more to follow in late 2016 and early 2017.
What others say about the programme
Local Government New Zealand says local authorities need to consider innovative approaches to risk management to protect community assets from natural hazards and disasters.
New Zealand councils own a broad range of community assets worth more than $120 billion, including 88 per cent of New Zealand's road network, the bulk of the country's water and waste water networks, and libraries, recreation and community facilities.
To help councils protect assets in a changing social and environmental landscape, LGNZ has released Risk financing in local government, a guide designed to help councils better manage retained risk to vital infrastructure and better understand the financial aspects of risk management.
The guide was prepared by former Earthquake Commission chief executive David Middleton, who says after the Canterbury earthquakes and in a changing climate local authorities could save money and better protect assets by making improved risk management decisions.
“By becoming more sophisticated in their risk management, councils could reduce insurance premium costs and negotiate policies that are best fit for purpose, helping to meet local community expectations of recovery following disasters,” Middleton says.
“The guide helps councils and staff better understand their options when buying insurance, from more accurate valuation of assets and wiser choice of the value insured, to using brokers and selecting the right deductible (excess).”
The guide also outlines the primary task of identifying what risks should be insured and when an alternative risk management tool, like raising additional capital instead of insuring at a high premium, or collective insurance arrangements, would be a better choice.
“The most likely low cost incidents should be handled through normal budget provision and the most destructive but extremely unlikely events need special techniques outside the scope of ordinary insurance,” Mr Middleton says.
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says the guide came out of the work involved in preparing a business case for a Local Government Risk Agency. An agency would pool and coordinate local government resources to reduce risk to assets and the costs from disasters, giving greater community resilience and welfare, and improved national and local visibility and cost certainty.
“While overall risk management is critical, one of the most important challenges facing councils right now is insurance costs,” Mr Yule says.
“Our investigations into a risk agency discovered insurance-related advice was needed by local authorities.”
A business case for the Local Government Risk Agency has been provided to the Government for consideration.
This work complements other LGNZ projects including the 2050 Challenge, which identifies the major shifts taking place in New Zealand to better understand the implications for local and central government, and Planning our Future, an eight point programme for a future-focused resource management system.
Kiwi campervan company JUCY Rentals has joined a trial aimed at ensuring freedom campers act responsibly while travelling in New Zealand.
While most freedom campers respect the communities they visit the poor behaviour of a few has tarnished the perception of the whole practice.
For local authorities incentivising the right behaviour for that minority is proving to be a challenge, as is collection of unpaid infringement fines. At present, infringements are not tagged to the rental vehicle and many fines are unpaid when people leave the country.
In a trial launched last month between the Thames-Coromandel and Queenstown-Lakes district councils and Tourism Holdings Limited - operators of the Maui, Britz and Mighty rental campervan brands - the company is helping the councils collect infringement fees incurred by hirers who flout freedom camping laws.
The scheme sees fines issued to campers tagged to the vehicle they are travelling in. When they return the vehicle they are reminded of the fine by the company and directed to the relevant council website where they can to pay it immediately and avoid an administration fee.
Queenstown-Lakes District Council regulatory manager Lee Webster says the council is already seeing good results despite the scheme’s infancy and its launch in the tourism sector’s shoulder season.
“We’ve had a really positive start so far,” Webster says.
“While the number of infringements is small at the moment, it is very encouraging to see an increase in the number of tickets being paid. This is something that our community would otherwise have missed out on, as the customers have paid online as a direct result of speaking to THL staff when they’ve returned their vehicle.”
Now JUCY is getting on board.
JUCY CEO Tim Alpe says freedom camping is a valuable contributor to the economy but it is important that those who don’t behave responsibly meet their obligations.
“There’s a small group of travellers who freedom camp irresponsibly that spoil it for other travellers,” Alpe says.
“Currently, there is a belief among this group that they’re able to leave the country without paying their fines. JUCY hopes that joining this trial will help create awareness that these fines do need to be paid. It will also give us an opportunity to give customers a friendly reminder that they can easily avoid an additional administration charge if they pay their fines before departing.”
Local Government New Zealand President Lawrence Yule says support from the tourism industry is needed to improve the management of freedom camping in communities throughout New Zealand.
“Tourism operators have multiple touchpoints with tourists and as such are perfectly placed for assisting local councils with educating customers, enforcement and collection of fines,” Mr Yule says.
Councils called for changes to the Freedom Camping Act 2011 in a remit presented by South Island councils at the Local Government New Zealand conference in July.
How it works
New Zealanders need to make their vote count in the upcoming local council elections if they want to influence how their regions are led and governed, says Local Government New Zealand Chief Executive, Malcolm Alexander.
Voting papers for city, district and regional councils will be posted out to eligible voters from 16 September and must be posted or hand delivered in time to reach their local council’s electoral officer by 12 noon on 8 October.
“Local government shapes the place that you live. It’s the pavements you walk on, the roads where you drive, the water in your shower, and the parks, libraries and swimming pool where you take the kids,” Mr Alexander says.
“It’s also about culture, sports events, economic development and much more. It is your democratic right to take part in electing those members who best reflect the values and local priorities of the community you live in.
“So all eligible voters should have their say via the ballot box to get the people they want around council tables. This is the best way to see the changes you want in your community.”
“This is your opportunity as a citizen to play a part in electing the people who will make the important decisions about how public resources will be allocated.
“In 2016 we’re very keen to get voter turnout above 50 per cent. That means reversing a downward trend, but we believe New Zealanders simply need some gentle reminders about the importance of participating in the democratic process at both local and national levels.”
Research has shown that a large proportion of people who do not vote intend to do so but are simply too busy or forget.
“I would encourage people to vote as soon as possible after receiving your voting papers in the post,” Mr Alexander says.
“Don’t put them to one side or stick them to the fridge where they will get covered up by other stuff. Sit down and fill them in as soon as you can, then post them back.
“By voting you can make a real difference and give your support to those candidates who have the values and policies to strengthen local economies and revitalise our communities.”
Further information about the election, including the candidates standing in your area, how to fill in voting papers and how the Single Transferable Vote (STV) and First Past the Post (FPP) voting systems work is available at www.vote2016.co.nz.
If you are not enrolled you may still vote, however, you will need to contact your local council’s electoral officer in order to make a casting vote.
The 2050 Challenge: future proofing our communities
The paper was launched at the conference and we are now seeking feedback from the sector and key stakeholders. The purpose of the 2050 Challenge is to identify the major shifts taking place in New Zealand to better understand the implications for local and central government. A second paper outlining the key implications for local government will follow later. You can read the document by clicking here. To give feedback, email email@example.com. We are seeking comment by Friday 23 September.
Planning our future – an eight point programme for a future-focused resource management system
At conference we also launched our proposals for changes to the resource management system, calling for greater emphasis on early decision-making and placing greater value on natural eco-systems. The programme is designed to address a range of important issues with New Zealand’s resource management system with the aim of furthering discussion about what would best suit the country’s needs in the coming decades.
Local Government Act Amendment Bill
The Bill has now been before the Local Government and Environment Select Committee. LGNZ, supported by 15 mayors, chairs and councillors of regional, city and district councils from around New Zealand, presented to the Committee, as did 32 councils. Sixty councils made written submissions in opposition to the Bill as it stands now. A democratic process for deciding these kinds of changes exists for a reason and that is to test ideas and seek contributions from diverse people and groups. There is always room for change and we believe a solution that works for all parties can be achieved. We are optimistic a good outcome can be found.