Frontpage News - July 2017

Published: July 13, 2017

News type: National news   

Dear member,

In this edition of Frontpage News we launch the first reports from the inaugural year of the local government excellence programme, CouncilMARK™.

We also cover the finalists of the 2017 LGNZ Excellence Awards and have updates on LGNZ’s new policy direction ahead of the general election, the wash-up from our recent Freshwater Symposium and other policy work.

We also provide updates on current workstreams and share local wins and local government media stories.

In this edition

  • Local government assessments to show and grow council value released
  • LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards finalists announced
  • LGNZ policy priorities to inform election manifesto
  • Future-focused plan for New Zealand’s infrastructure needed
  • LGNZ welcomes new move to deal with end-of-life tyres
  • Freshwater Symposium shows commitment to water improvement

Workstreams

Water 2050

LGNZ’s Water 2050 project has commenced.  The project scope and design now is with the LGNZ Policy Advisory Group for their consideration.  A key aspect of Water 2050 is to bring greater coherence to the policy debate from standards setting through to the financing and community affordability of infrastructure to deliver required standards.

Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry

LGNZ is registered to participate in Stage 2 of the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry.  LGNZ aims to ensure the Inquiry is properly informed of present broader policy and regulatory settings, and past work and thinking carried out by the sector including through the 3 Waters Project.

Local government assessments to show and grow council value released

Local Government New Zealand congratulates the first councils to have been assessed through the local government excellence programme, CouncilMARK™.

Eighteen councils from around New Zealand signed up as Foundation Councils to be the first to go through the assessment process.  Reports for the first five are complete and have now been released by the CouncilMARK™ Independent Assessment Board for councils and their communities. 

The reports released today are for Horowhenua District Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Matamata-Piako District Council, Ruapehu District Council and Napier City Council.  The reports and more information on CouncilMARK™ can be found here.

The reports showed all councils had areas of strength as well as opportunities for improvement.

While each report accounts for the individual circumstances of different councils, a number of common themes emerged.  These include that financial planning is generally conservative and prudent, asset management is aligned with council vision and goals and most councils keep their constituents regularly informed and are accessible to the community.

The reports also show councils could see improvement in a number of ways, including by embedding a strong risk management regime, strengthening audit and risk committees by including an independent member, enhancing councillor focus on asset management and better utilising communication tools, including social media.

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says the release of the first reports marks a major milestone for local government and the communities it serves.

“The CouncilMARK™ programme is the gold standard assessment system for councils and communities, designed to achieve measurable change over time,” Mr Yule says.

“Local government is committed to delivering the best possible outcomes for our communities and doing this requires in-depth knowledge of how we are performing in our key areas of responsibility, and that is what CouncilMARK™ provides.  It is necessary and timely, and has the support of the sector.

“I congratulate all councils that have been through the programme for getting involved, and look forward to other councils participating in the programme in the next round of assessments later this year.”

LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards finalists announced

We are delighted to announce the finalists in this year’s LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards.

In its fourth year, the awards programme continues to go from strength to strength.  In 2017 there were 56 high-calibre projects and programmes entered across five categories.  From those entries judges selected 17 finalists with the winners to be announced at the LGNZ Conference and EXCELLENCE Awards dinner next month.

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says local government plays an essential role in driving residential, community and economic activity throughout New Zealand and the finalists in the EXCELLENCE Awards showcased outstanding leadership being provided by councils throughout the country.

“Local government is at the centre of every community in New Zealand, helping shape the environment in which we work and play,” Mr Yule says. “Being named as a finalist is a great achievement and reflects the vision shown by councils and the innovative work being done by staff.  The finalists include some exceptional projects that are having a profound impact on communities.” The awards recognise the best examples of this.

Local authorities were invited to submit award applications in five categories:

  • Fulton Hogan EXCELLENCE Award for Community Engagement
  • Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Best Creative Place
  • Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact
  • Chorus EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice in Infrastructure
  • Crown Fibre Holdings EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice Contribution to Local Economic Development

One finalist is also selected as the MartinJenkins Judges’ Choice Award for Outstanding Value and Service Delivery.

Fulton Hogan EXCELLENCE Award for Community Engagement 

  • Hutt City Council – Transformation Taita
  • Queenstown Lakes District Council – QLDC Winter Morning Road Reports
  • Tasman District Council – Moturoa/Rabbit Island Reserve Management Plan (RMP)
  • Thames-Coromandel District Council – Our Coromandel Summer Magazine
  • Waikato Regional Council – Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai

Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award Best Creative Place

  • Napier City Council – City Vision: Small City, Big Ideas
  • Waikato District Council – Placemaking Programme

Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact

  • Environment Southland – Southland Dairy Effluent Advisory Group project
  • Palmerston North City Council – Green Corridors Palmerston North
  • Waikato Regional Council – Velvetleaf biosecurity response

Chorus EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice in Infrastructure Management

  • Waikato District Council – Waikato District Alliance
  • Hamilton City Council – Rototuna Reservoir – supporting growth and building resilience in Hamilton

Crown Fibre Holdings EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice Contribution to Local Economic Development

  • Hastings District Council – Papakainga Development Policy & Implementation Project 2007-17
  • Hauraki District Council – Economic Development Strategy “Toward 2025”
  • Rotorua Lakes Council – Rotorua Mountain Biking Strategy 
  • Selwyn District Council – Izone Business Park Development
  • West Coast Regional Council – Untamed Natural Wilderness

LGNZ policy priorities to inform election manifesto

New Zealand’s infrastructure, community resilience and how we respond to increasing impacts on our environment will be key areas of focus for local government in the coming three years. 

Local Government New Zealand has announced its updated policy priorities which will focus on the major issues New Zealand will face now and into the future, and inform its 2017 election manifesto, to be released soon. 

Social impacts as a result of an ageing population and inequality, and further addressing economic development and growth across all of New Zealand make up the five priorities. 

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says the priorities are aimed at ensuring New Zealand is prepared for a future that will see many significant changes. 

“These major changes include responding to climate change, an ageing population, the impacts of technology on the ways we work, the results of people increasingly moving to cities on both urban and regional areas, and protecting the environment as these shifts come to bear,” Mr Yule says. 

“We are looking at a future quite different from our past and even our present.  These policy priorities address the areas where local government will have a major role to play to ensure our communities and the country as a whole can thrive.” 

LGNZ’s five policy priorities 

  1. Infrastructure: Ensuring infrastructure and associated funding mechanisms are in place to allow for growth and maintenance across housing, building, transport, broadband, tourism-related, three waters and flood control infrastructure.
  2. Risk and resilience: Understanding and addressing risks from natural hazards and other events – both for infrastructure and to support resilience in the economy and our communities.
  3. Environmental: Leading and championing policy and working alongside central government and iwi to deal with the increasing impact of environmental issues including climate change, the quality and quantity of New Zealand’s freshwater resources, and biodiversity.
  4. Social: Working alongside central government, iwi and stakeholders to address social issues and needs in our communities including an ageing population, disparity between social groups, housing (including social housing) supply and quality, and community safety.
  5. Economic: Developing a range of policy levers, to address and fund economic development and   growth across all of New Zealand.

Future-focused plan for New Zealand’s infrastructure needed

New Zealand’s infrastructure is at a crossroads and needs to be a key focus in the upcoming election, Local Government New Zealand says.

In its election manifesto, to be released at its annual conference next month, LGNZ says the country’s infrastructure will need significant attention in the coming years.  The manifesto calls for an incoming government to commit to a range of measures to help communities manage factors including population growth, tourism stresses, climate change and an approaching need to renew existing infrastructure.

LGNZ Vice President Dave Cull says infrastructure and how it is funded is a major theme running throughout the manifesto, LGNZ’s plan for a prosperous and vibrant New Zealand.

“Our roads, water pipes and sewage treatment plants are the bedrock of our communities, environment and economies, and we are at a point now where we need to take some significant decisions about how we ensure we continue to enjoy the benefits of our vital infrastructure,” Mr Cull says.

The issue was also highlighted last week in the OECD’s New Zealand Economic Survey, which noted limitations on the ability and incentives for local governments to fund land transport and water infrastructure has restricted housing supply. The report recommended enhancing councils’ incentives to accommodate growth, for example by sharing in a tax base linked to local economic activity and to apply user charging more broadly for infrastructure, including congestion charging. 

Mr Cull says the OECD echoes LGNZ’s own view and that it must be taken into consideration.

“The findings of the OECD confirm that local government needs alternative funding mechanisms beyond rates and debt to ensure we meet our infrastructure challenges.  The OECD says our productivity is already being held back by poor housing infrastructure, if our other vital infrastructure is not up to scratch it will become difficult for the country to thrive in a rapidly changing world.”

In its manifesto LGNZ says to ensure infrastructure is properly resourced and fit-for-purpose for the future an incoming government will need to:

  • Ensure a broad range of funding tools are available for local authorities, for example regional fuel taxes or congestion charges;
  • Give councils greater decision-making authority on urban issues, for example the option to use special purpose vehicles;
  • Introduce integrated transport planning; and
  • Provide councils with a mechanism for capturing a share of local economic activity which councils are instrumental in growing through effective infrastructure investment.

LGNZ welcomes new move to deal with end-of-life tyres

A new National Environmental Standard to deal with New Zealand’s millions of waste tyres is an excellent step towards reducing the harmful impacts of used tyres. 

The Government this morning announced the new Standard which will prohibit stockpiles of waste tyres of over 200m3 - 2500 car tyres - without a council consent dealing with the environmental issues of leachate, fire risk, vermin and insects, visual amenity and a bond for future disposal. 

A wider plan also includes funding to create a nationwide collection and shredding operation and provides a large scale end use by installing technology to enable waste tyres to be used in cement manufacture. 

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says waste tyres have been an issue for councils and their communities for many years. 

“Stockpiles of tyres pose a significant threat to the environment, are an eyesore and place a financial burden on ratepayers having to clean up sites where end-of-life tyres have been stored inappropriately,” Mr Yule says. 

“No one wants to see a tyre fire break out in their area or have tyres leaching contaminants into the environment so it is pleasing to see the Government take action in this area.” 

Mr Yule says providing funding to Waste Minimisation New Zealand for a collection and shredding operation, and the grants to several companies looking to utilise the shredded tyres means there is an outcome for the tyres. 

“The number of tyres coming into New Zealand is increasing and more will need to be done to deal with those at the end of their life, but this is a great step forward.”

Freshwater Symposium shows commitment to water improvement

A Freshwater Symposium hosted by Local Government New Zealand showed there is a strong platform for improving freshwater quality in New Zealand. 

Over 200 delegates from across local and central government, iwi, the science community and the primary sector gathered in Wellington recently for the two day symposium. 

Speakers included Minister for the Environment Hon Dr Nick Smith, the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman and US based water scientist David Maidment. 

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says the Symposium showed there is broad agreement among many of those involved in water management and guardianship about the scale of the issue and the need to address it. 

“There is already a lot of excellent work underway to improve our waterways, including from councils, the farming sector, environmental groups and community initiatives, but we all know more effort is needed,” Mr Yule says. 

“The symposium provided a forum for all parties to have their say and I was heartened by the strong desire shown by attendees to share ideas, work underway and a commitment to ensure New Zealand’s water quality is lifted.  Achieving the water goals of our communities is going to take hard work, time and of course money.  Following this Symposium we are in a better place to take this issue forward than even six months ago.” 

LGNZ Regional Sector Chair Doug Leeder says the Symposium showed there is a future focus across the board. 

“We all know there are issues in some catchments,” Mr Leeder says.  “Continuing to improve our water quality will require a collaborative approach grounded in science, and I think there is agreement on the challenges we face.” 

Speaking at the Symposium Sir Peter Gluckman said it takes time and a consistent but adaptive approach to clean a catchment and it cannot be done without broad stakeholder engagement. 

“There are no silver bullets in water restoration – multiple actions are needed, requiring partnerships between central and local authorities, iwi, citizens and businesses including farmers,” he said. 

“We need to be aware of the multiple stressors on fresh waters, and that fresh waters are a product of their catchments.” 

Mr Yule says that means both urban and rural communities will need to consider how they work towards cleaner water, led by and in partnership with local government.  LGNZ’s Water 2050 project has also been launched to bring greater coherence to the policy debate. 

“We need to use the science we have available, adopt appropriate technologies and work together.  It won’t be easy and we will all, as councils, businesses and individuals, need to take responsibility for this task,” he says.

Coming up

LGNZ Conference registrations still open

With only 15 days to go, the 2017 LGNZ Conference is gearing up to be a great success with over 600 delegates registered to attend.

We have also had over 600 tickets purchased for the Fulton Hogan conference dinner and LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards on 24 July.

There is still a short amount of time left to register for conference and the various social events on offer if you haven't already done so. Click here for the Conference programme.  Click here to register.

New Zealand Chinese Language Week 16-22 October 2017.

New Zealand Chinese Language Week (NZCLW) is an initiative that aims to increase Chinese language learning in New Zealand. This initiative is the first of its kind in any Western country and has emerged in the context of a rapidly strengthening relationship between New Zealand and China.

NZCLW seeks to “bridge the cultural and linguistic knowledge gap” between our two countries. Local government is encouraged to take part and support this initiative by hosting events and using NZCLW resources to promote the week in the community via libraries, i-sites, swimming pools and public spaces.  A range of resources to help can be found here.

Councils who plan to hold events to celebrate NZCLW can contact Sylvie@nzclw.com so that these may be promoted via the www.nzclw.com website.

Xiè Xiè. 

Homestar goes on tour

The New Zealand Green Building Council is touring New Zealand to launch the latest version of Homestar, the tool verifying the health and warmth of new build homes.  The tour will be used to talk through the large developments that are now requiring its use, and set out how councils around New Zealand are incentivising better buildings and homes with development contributions remissions, faster building consent, greater density and other mechanisms.   

Free events will be held in:

Climate Change & Business Conference

The tenth in the series, the Australia-New Zealand Climate Change and Business Conference is an essential forum for policy-makers, local government and business addressing climate change with a focus on domestic and international policy, disruptive technologies, adaptation planning and litigation risks.  The Conference is from 10-11 October 2017.

The programme outline is now available and registration is live: www.climateandbusiness.com

Local wins

Clyde Station wins restoration award

The restoration of the Clyde Railway Station has been announced the winner of the Rail Heritage Trust's 2017 Restoration Award.

Clair Higginson received the award on behalf of the Central Otago District Council, Promote Dunstan and the Clyde Railway Station Working Group at the Federation of Rail Organisations in New Zealand (FRONZ) Conference in Dunedin earlier this month.

Clair said it was a special occasion and honour to accept the award.

"I felt really proud that our community had gone down the path of wanting this station to be recognised as an important part of our town's history."

The Clyde Railway Station originally opened in April 1907 when the Central Otago railway finally reached Clyde. 

In 2005 it became obvious the station was falling into disrepair and was in urgent need of some care and attention. A public meeting led to the creation of a "Save our Station" committee and fundraising campaign. 

The $90,000 project to restore the Heritage New Zealand category two building to its former glory was funded by Promote Dunstan, Central Lakes Trust, the Lotteries Commission and the public appeal spearheaded by the "Save our Station" committee.  It involved both professional labour as well as volunteer working bees. A grand reopening was held in October 2015 to celebrate the completion of the restoration project and the end of a 10-year journey to make the dream happen. 

The station is tenanted by Shebikeshebikes and also houses a museum space where a two-metre long model of the station is displayed alongside other railway memorabilia from the Clyde Historical Museum collection. ​

An event to officially unveil the impressive plaque and certificate following their installation at the station is being planned for early Spring.

More farmers seeking information on how to comply with water quality rules

More Otago farmers are looking for information and advice on how to minimise their operation’s impact on water quality and comply with rules in the Otago Water Plan.

That’s one of the key findings of the Otago Regional Council’s annual survey to monitor the level of understanding and uptake among farmers about meeting their responsibilities under the Water Plan.

In last year’s survey, only 7 percent of sheep, beef and dairy farmers said they needed more information on how to comply with the rules. That figure has doubled to 14 percent, independent survey company Versus Research has found.

Just over half the farmers who took part in the survey said they had an excellent (13%) or good (39%) understanding of what they needed to do to comply, which is unchanged from the 2015 and 2016 results.

ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker said the surge in respondents looking for more information suggested that farmers were not being complacent about the impact their practices had on water quality. People who might previously have assumed they knew what was required of them were now aware that they needed to be better informed.

Overall, 11 percent of the survey respondents said they had made all the changes they need to ensure their operation was compliant, while 38% said they had made most of the required changes (up from 28% in 2015 and 35% last year). Thirty-five percent said they had made some of the changes (up from 31% last year), while just 14 percent said they had not yet made any changes to their farming practices (a decrease from last year).

Mr Bodeker said the figures relating to land management changes needed to be considered in context since farmers reported they were mainly carrying out fencing and changing effluent systems – tasks which are both costly and time-consuming.

The survey findings confirm that some farmers remain unclear about the rules in the Water Plan and the changes they need to make in order to comply.

Mr Bodeker said the council acknowledged that many farmers were looking for more support and advice and had several initiatives to address this.

These included: 

  • Developing a more comprehensive and user-friendly guidebook to replace the fact pack that has been distributed to farmers in the past. 
  • ORC staff attending more farmer, industry, and catchment group meetings so farmers can ask questions relating specifically to their property. 
  • ORC staff attending field days, and a roadshow visiting 15 locations around the region planned in the next financial year. 
  • Building awareness of ORC’s On-Stream e-newsletter and dedicated Good Water in Otago Facebook page as sources of information.
  • Subject to confirmation of the council’s Annual Plan at the end of the month, the council is also proposing to offer an Environmental Risk Assessment service to individual farmers, supported by the creation of three additional positions to help deliver this service.

“We are aware that many farmers are responding positively to our unique, effects-based approach to water quality compliance and we are committed to ensuring that those who are unclear or confused get the targeted information they need to do the same,” Mr Bodeker said.

Special pest rate paying off for Whangarei Heads environment

Two years after its introduction, a groundbreaking rate designed to target pests threatening kiwi and help eradicate selected weeds on private land at Whangarei Heads is adding to the successes of existing community-led work there.

Believed to be one of the first of its kind in New Zealand, the $50 annual ‘Whangarei Heads Pest Management Rate’  is levied on about 2000 ratepayers in an approximately 10,000 hectare area stretching roughly from Bream Head to Parua Bay.

The rate was formally adopted in July 2015 as part of the council’s Long Term Plan and designed to complement a number of long-standing community efforts on the pest front.

Paul Dimery, who represents the regional council’s Coastal Central constituency, says a Whangarei Heads Pest Management Working Group ensures the money is spent locally in areas identified by the community itself.  (Group members include representatives from the regional and Whangarei District Councils, local community groups and iwi.)

“At the moment, roughly two-thirds of the rate supports ‘Backyard Kiwi’ (which has been undertaking kiwi recovery in the area since 2002) and the remainder goes to ‘Weed Action Whangarei Heads’.

Councillor Dimery says although the amount of money collected annually is not huge compared to some other rates, both groups funded by it say it definitely makes a positive and noticeable contribution to their work – and builds on their successes.

“Backyard Kiwi reports that Kiwi numbers have now risen from just 80 in 2002 to more than 800 last year.  A team of 30 kiwi listeners has been out at night listening to kiwi at 20 stations scattered throughout the Heads recently and initial indications are that numbers will have increased further.”

“Most parts of New Zealand are seeing a steady decline in kiwi numbers; Whangarei Heads has been bucking that trend for a number for years and we’re delighted to be able to help.”

Councillor Dimery says Backyard Kiwi currently covers an area of about 6000 hectares, although this is expected to increase by another several hundred hectares over the next 12 months as the recovering kiwi population expands northwards into places cared for by other community-based landcare groups.

Meanwhile, he says the rate funding provided to Weed Action Whangarei Heads is used to help local landowners and weed action groups, both raising awareness of pest plants and urging action to control them.

“The group is able to provide expert advice and some resources like tools, equipment and herbicide to assist landowners and also has some strategic projects on the go to stop certain weeds like privet, mothplant and woolly nightshade from becoming major pests in the area.”

He says the group has adopted a simple yet effective system using signage and coloured tape attached to various weeds along roadsides to highlight individual pest plants it is keen to target to people who may not be familiar with them.

“The group aims to make it easy for every Whangarei Heads resident to join in the fight against weeds and as a council we’re hugely supportive of that.”

In the media

Naïve to think people will just keep coming to New Zealand

Southland dairy effluent project nominated for local government award

Napier's City Vision project up for LGNZ award

West Coast’s ‘Untamed Natural Wilderness’ brand recognised

South Canterbury mayors say plastic problem is not just confined to bags

Drinking water on councils’ minds

Councils say new tourism fund not enough

Local government seeks central government help to replace ageing water infrastructure

Other frontpage news