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Frontpage News - July 2018

LGNZ Conference 2018 and AGM headlines Frontpage news this month where the LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards winners were announced and Project Localism was launched by LGNZ and The New Zealand Initiative.

We also welcomed the terms of reference for the Productivity Commissions’ forthcoming inquiry into local government funding and finance, alongside a number of policy remits that were debated and voted on, focusing on infrastructure and funding, waste, climate change, the environment and social issues.

You'll also find updates on current workstreams, local council wins and local government media stories.

Innovative projects recognised in LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards

Palmerston North City Council and Rotorua Lakes Council have led the way at the Local Government New Zealand EXCELLENCE Awards.

The Councils each won two of the six Award categories and were joint winners of the overall MartinJenkins Judges’ Choice Award for Performance Excellence and Community Outcomes.

Now in their fifth year, the Awards recognise and celebrate the key leadership role that local government plays in communities around the country.  This year saw the highest number of entries in the Awards’ history.  Winners were announced at the LGNZ conference dinner in Christchurch on 16 July.

Palmerston North’s Framing the Big Picture programme won the LGNZ EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice in Governance, Leadership and Strategy; and its Public Art Programme won the Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Best Creative Place.

Rotorua Lakes won the LGNZ EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice Contribution to Local Economic Development for breathing new life into the inner city; and the LGNZ EXCELLENCE Award for Service Delivery and Asset Management category for its Te Aka Mauri Library and Children’s Health Hub.

Wellington City Council’s Our Natural Capital programme, to protect the capital’s native biodiversity, won the Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact; Waipa District Council carried off the Fulton Hogan EXCELLENCE Award for Community Engagement for its project Out of the Shadows – Bringing Waipa’s Heritage to Life.

Central Hawke’s Bay District Council’s Project Thrive was highly commended in the LGNZ EXCELLENCE AWARD for Governance, Leadership and Strategy category, and Wairoa District Council’s Wairoa Wastewater Stakeholder Group in the Fulton Hogan EXCELLENCE Award for Community Engagement.

Northland Regional Council’s Marine Biosecurity programme was highly commended in the Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact; and Far North District Council was highly commended in the Fulton Hogan EXCELLENCE Award for Community Engagement for its Ngā Kurī Auau o Kaikohe project, promoting responsible dog ownership.

Waikato District Council was highly commended in the LGNZ EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice Contribution to Local Economic Development category for the Te Awa River Ride – Ngaruawahia to Horotiu; and the Waikato Mayoral Forum was highly commended in the LGNZ EXCELLENCE Award for Service Delivery and Asset Management category for the RATA (Road Asset Technical Accord) programme.

LGNZ President Dave Cull said “Our judges commended the number of outstanding finalists in the awards across delivery of best practice value and services to their community and they are recognising this in awarding the first joint award in the Judges’ Choice category.  The leadership shown by Rotorua Lakes Council and Palmerston North City Council is an example to others in the country of strong strategic thinking, excellent community engagement and well-designed execution.”

The winners and finalists incorporate best practice criteria from LGNZ’s CouncilMARK™ excellence programme which is designed to improve the public’s knowledge of the work councils are doing in their communities and to support individual councils to further improve the service and value they provide.

“Overall the judges felt that the strongest entries demonstrated a strong strategic focus, clear outcomes, measured results, cost benefit analysis and engagement with external organisations – particularly a collaborative approach with stakeholders, and meaningful engagement with iwi and Māori.”

Bringing government back to the people - LGNZ and The New Zealand Initiative start Project Localism

Instead of relying on central government to decide what is good for our communities it is time to empower councils and communities themselves to make such decisions, Local Government New Zealand and The New Zealand Initiative say.

LGNZ and the Initiative presented their Localism project at LGNZ Conference.  Together, they call for devolution and decentralisation in the way New Zealand is run.

Releasing a joint position statement, LGNZ President Dave Cull said New Zealand needs to restore the balance between local and central government.

“Both tiers of government must work together, each contributing what they do best,” says Mr Cull.

“Centralised countries tend to be less wealthy and have lower standards of living.  New Zealand is among the most centralised countries in the world.  We should not expect central government in Wellington to be the best decision-maker for every local problem.  Communities often know best what they need.”

“This means that services will be more responsive, better focused on local issues and delivered in a manner which is consistent with local values and cultures,” says Mr Cull.  “This will give local citizens, iwi/Māori organisations, businesses and community groups a greater say.”

The New Zealand Initiative’s Executive Director Dr Oliver Hartwich added, “After more than a century of centralism, New Zealand needs to go local.  Councils and communities must be able to make their own decisions about their future.”

The joint project between LGNZ and The New Zealand Initiative is calling for a shift in the way public decisions are made in New Zealand by seeking a commitment to localism.

Substantial review of local government funding welcome and needed

Local Government New Zealand is pleased with the terms of reference for the Productivity Commissions’ forthcoming inquiry into local government funding and finance which were launched by Minister of Finance Hon Grant Robertson at its annual conference in Christchurch.

LGNZ President Dave Cull says that the current way of funding local government doesn’t provide the means to invest for growth and development, particularly given the diverse challenges facing communities.

“Our regions, cities and districts shouldn’t be entirely dependent on central government to resolve the complex issues that we are now facing – it is essential that we empower local authorities with access to funding and financing tools to make a difference,“ says Mr Cull.

Local government has been calling for a significant review of local government funding since 2015 when LGNZ first released its Local Government Funding Review and 10-Point plan: Incentivising economic growth and strong local communities.  The review found that the heavy reliance on property rates to fund local services and infrastructure failed to incentivise councils to invest for growth, which is necessary to provide the additional income to deal with issues such as infrastructure improvements and the pressures from climate change, extreme weather events and the impact of tourists on infrastructure.

“Local government is critical to the overall wellbeing of New Zealand’s communities and the way in which councils are funded influences their approach to new investment.  If the only funding sources are property based taxes then the ability and incentive to fund long term growth investment is limited.”

LGNZ will be seeking new funding sources that better reward councils’ investments in local infrastructure and services.

“LGNZ is pleased that the Inquiry has been given a broad focus to consider whether the current funding and financing model is able to deliver on community expectations and council obligations.  It is important that new funding options incentivise growth – LGNZ’s new Localism Project, launched on the same day, will highlight how the right incentives and funding can build strong local economies and vibrant communities. The urgent need to properly empower councils is reinforced by the fact that decentralised countries tend to have higher levels of prosperity than centralised ones.”

“The proper incentives and resources must be in place to successfully drive economic prosperity, plan for infrastructure and anticipate social demands.”

“The recommendation that the Productivity Commission work closely with LGNZ on the Inquiry is also welcomed,” Mr Cull says.

There has been strong ministerial engagement in regards to local government funding and LGNZ would like to recognise Minister of Local Government Hon Nanaia Mahuta and Minister of Finance Hon Grant Robertson for their leadership in this initiating a local government funding inquiry.

Local government debates key issues at annual conference

LGNZ’s annual conference kicked off with the Local Government New Zealand Annual General Meeting where thirteen policy remits were voted on.  This year remits focused on infrastructure and funding, waste, climate change, the environment and social issues.

LGNZ President Dave Cull says the sector’s annual conference is a significant event and an opportunity to debate the critical issues impacting our communities.

“These are important issues for councils and their communities and the conference’s theme of future-proofing our communities is an apt topic to discuss given New Zealand’s challenges around impacts of climate change, population growth, burgeoning tourist numbers, lack of affordable housing and increasing social issues,” Mr Cull says.

Remits were voted on in a secret ballot and once passed become official policy to be actioned by Local Government New Zealand.

The remits are outlined below:

Rural roads policy for heavy commercial vehicles

Proposed by Ruapehu District Council, this remit asked that LGNZ pursue investigation of a Road Pricing Policy Statement for Land Transport to incentivise route selection for heavy commercial vehicles that encourages the most economically efficient use of the transport network over both all Local Roads both urban and rural and the State Highway network.

The Council says that current Road User Fees and Charges regime incentivises the shortest transport distance from gate to port or processing plant to primary producer without assessment of the most economic, efficient and sustainable transport route and that this does not enable efficiency in the use of the transport network nor take into account resilience and safety.

The remit was passed overwhelmingly with 96 per cent of the sector in support.

Heritage buildings

This remit was proposed by Whanganui District Council and asks that LGNZ lobby the Government for greater support for, and protection of, heritage buildings via the following mechanisms: Revision of the Building (Earthquake-Prone Buildings) Amendment Act to change the ‘25% building work’ clause instead to trigger earthquake strengthening once a threshold of “25% of the Capital Value or $200,000, whichever is the greater” is reached to make this a more equitable provision for regional centres; an increase in the heritage fund; and provision of tax relief for heritage building upgrades.

The remit was passed overwhelmingly with 95 per cent of the sector in support.

Climate change advocacy to banks to transition to low- or zero-carbon investments

This remit asked that LGNZ advocate to all major banks that they transition away from investments in fossil fuel industries and consider opportunities for long-term investments in low- or zero-carbon energy systems.

Proposed by Greater Wellington Regional Council the remit was designed to reinforce the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration 2017, which advocated that “A clear and consistent pathway toward a low carbon and resilient future needs to provide certainty for successive governments, businesses and communities to enable transformative decisions and investments to be made over time.”

Following vigorous debate the remit was narrowly lost by 50 per cent to 45, with 5 per cent abstaining.  A remit requires 51 per cent or more to pass.

Climate Change Adaptation Fund

Following on from the findings and recommendations of the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group, Christchurch City Council asked that LGNZ call on central government to establish a Climate Change Adaptation Fund to improve local level and community participation in responding to climate change.

The impacts of climate change will be experienced New Zealand-wide with increased frequency and intensity of extreme events such as flooding, droughts, and increased coastal inundation.  Over the past year this has been felt particularly keenly by local government in coastal areas.  Adaptation to climate change is a necessary and ongoing process for decisions relating to infrastructure, urban development, biodiversity and land and water management and the cost and affordability of adaptation for communities, businesses and councils is a significant issue.

The remit was supported strongly with 92 per cent of the sector in favour.

Drug testing in the community

Tasman District Council asked that LGNZ works with central government to develop a nationally consistent regime of waste water testing, to enable a solid basis for testing drug use in our communities.

The Council says testing wastewater is a straightforward and effective way to demonstrate the scale and nature of problems with illegal drugs within our communities.  The proposal would allow for the best utilisation of resources within the community to test for drugs and aims to provide all relevant services with the ability to identify the use of illegal harmful substances and identify the practices to reduce harm.

The remit was supported strongly by 85 per cent of the sector.

Local alcohol policies which reflect community preferences

Proposed by Christchurch City Council and Napier City Council, this remits asked that LGNZ seeks the Government’s agreement to amend the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 so that Local Alcohol Policies can more accurately reflect local community views and preferences.  It also asks that councils be given more policy levers to reduce alcohol-related harm to complement Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs).

There is strong community concern about the effects of the increasing number of alcohol sale outlets in many communities.  While the ability to establish a local alcohol licensing framework has been devolved to councils, it has not been accompanied by the required authority and resources.  As a result, the majority of LAPs so far developed have been appealed by alcohol industry groups and, in most cases, have resulted in adopted LAPs which closely align with national legislation.  The lack of provisions within many of the adopted LAPs creates a significant burden on communities to be involved in individual licensing decisions; and the current ability for appellants to endlessly challenge a community’s preferences regarding the sale of alcohol is untenable.

The remit was passed overwhelmingly with 95 per cent of the sector in favour.

Supporting the use of biofuels as alternative low carbon fuels

This remit is proposed by Christchurch City Council and asked that LGNZ encourages the Government to investigate options to support the use of biodiesel, such as financial incentives; tax offsets; subsidies to bio-diesel manufacturers; and/or subsidies to renewable fuel manufacturers; and/or subsidies at the pump, in order to support the valuable New Zealand industries developing alternative and low carbon fuels.

With the decrease of global oil prices the price councils now pay for diesel is substantially lower than the price of alternative fuels, such as biodiesel.  While the lower cost of diesel is beneficial to councils and other consumers in the short- to medium-term, it is at the expense of the development of alternative fuels and associated technologies, and is acting against councils’ activities in other areas to reduce emissions.

The remit was supported strongly with 79 per cent of the sector in support.

Walking the talk – single use plastics

Proposed by Christchurch City Council this remit asked LGNZ to advocate to central government to urgently develop and implement a plan to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags and plastic straws and that LGNZ encourages its members to take steps to phase out the use of single-use plastic bags and straws at council facilities and events.

The extent of the issues posed by single-use plastic bags and plastic straws is such that a multi-pronged approach is required from central government, local councils, and citizens to limit the use of single-use plastics and promote responsible recycling.

The remit was passed overwhelmingly with 95 per cent of the sector in support.

Reducing the waste stream

This remit asked that LGNZ advocates to central government to implement the local government waste manifesto to reduce New Zealand’s waste by:

Adopting a New Zealand-wide strategic approach to the collection, and processing of recyclable materials within New Zealand;

Reviewing the New Zealand Waste Strategy and align, where practicable, with the “Local Government Waste Management Manifesto” to set a clear programme for action;

Officially adopting the National Waste Data Framework and oversee its implementation to enable better planning and monitoring;

Establishing a container deposit scheme in consultation with local government in order to lift recycling rates; and

Declaring tyres, e-waste, agricultural chemicals and plastics, as priority products under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, to address problem waste streams.

Proposed by Wellington City Council and Christchurch City Council, this remit highlighted the need for central government direction to develop a New Zealand-wide approach to recyclables processing and argues that, council-by-council approaches to solid waste collection, processing and disposal, are unlikely to achieve the necessary economies of scale needed to profit from recyclables processing in New Zealand.

The remit was passed overwhelmingly with 96 per cent support of the sector.

A separate waste disposal remit asked to expand the Waste Disposal Levy and progressively raise the levy rate in order to reduce total waste to landfills.  The remit was supported strongly by the sector with 76 per cent voting in favour.

A further remit on the tyre stewardship fund asked that LGNZ requests the Government urgently implements a comprehensive and mandatory product stewardship programme for tyres.  The remit was passed overwhelmingly with 99 per cent of the sector in support.

A mandatory register of cooling towers

Christchurch City Council asked LGNZ to advocate to central government to resume its work related to reducing the risks posed by legionella bacteria in industrial water cooling towers and acknowledge the potentially fatal risks posed by legionella bacteria in industrial water cooling towers used for air conditioning and manufacturing.

Every few years Legionnaires’ disease dominates headlines for a period as another "outbreak" occurs.  In order to reduce such outbreaks the Council proposes a mandatory nation-wide register of cooling towers to be updated annually, and overseen by the Ministry of Health via District Health Boards.

The remit was passed overwhelmingly with 95 per cent of the sector in support.

Copper in brake pads – impact on the environment

Proposed by Environment Canterbury, this remit asked that LGNZ calls for central government to introduce legislation to limit or eliminate the copper content of vehicle brake pads to reduce contaminants in urban waterways.

Many urban centres have some level of waterway degradation as a result of urbanisation, with stormwater runoff the major source of copper and other metals.  A necessary part of any water quality measurement strategy is to reduce or eliminate contaminates at the source.  Some sources can be managed at a regional or local level with bylaws and district plans, however, the control mechanisms available to a local authority are not sufficient to tackle copper.

The remit was supported strongly with 86 per cent of the sector in support.

Close to 600 local and central government members attended the annual LGNZ Conference in Christchurch.  This year’s theme of the conference is “We are firmly focused on the future: Future-proofing for a prosperous and vibrant New Zealand,” and the conference programme features a number of local government leaders, Ministers and international speakers on topics including building resilience in communities, localism and economic success, adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change, future-proofing our water infrastructure, and shaping the social wellbeing of our people.

Over three days, delegates from around the country will be involved in a range of events, workshops and talks, with speakers this year including Minister of Finance Grant Robertson, Minister for Climate Change James Shaw, Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta, Chair of Ofwat Jonson Cox (the economic regulator of the water sector in England and Wales), Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative Dr Oliver Hartwich, Sam Johnson and Daniel Flynn.

Long-standing councillor honoured for contribution to local government

Local Government New Zealand has honoured Rotorua leader Cr Trevor Maxwell MZNM with the Minister of Local Government EXCELLENCE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Local Government.

Cr Maxwell has represented Rotorua Lakes Council since 1977 and was Deputy Mayor from 2002-2013.  In that time Cr Maxwell has shown true leadership across a range of issues, and in particular Māori and the arts.

Cr Maxwell is Rotorua Lakes Council’s Cultural Ambassador and currently serves on six iwi protocol committees, Kaumatua Committee te Pukenga Koeke o Te Whare Taonga o Rotorua, is the Council’s representative on the Creative Communities Rotorua Assessment Committee and often hosts overseas delegations to Rotorua.

He has been an appointee to Tourism New Zealand as Kaupapa Director and has previously represented the organisation at international events, including Māori Arts Meets America in San Francisco in 2005 and the opening of the America’s Cup regatta in Valencia in 2007.

LGNZ President Dave Cull says Cr Maxwell is a role model for his community and local government and the award is well-deserved.

“Trevor has shown an outstanding commitment to the sector.  He has dedicated his life to his whanau, hapū and iwi and continues to stay involved at grass roots level as well as continuing to contribute at a high level around the Council table,” Mr Cull says.

Chair of Te Maruata, LGNZ’s collective of Māori in governance roles within the sector, Cr Bonita Bigham says Cr Maxwell is the living embodiment of community and local government success.

“He is a role model for all Māori, inside local government and within our communities at large.”

Cr Maxwell’s commitment to local government and the community was also recognised in 2002 when he was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for contribution to Māori, arts and local body affairs.

The EXCELLENCE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Local Government, designed to recognise one or more individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to local government, was awarded by LGNZ’s National Council.

Central and local government walking the same path on climate change adaptation strategy

Central and local government showed strong alignment on strategy for climate change adaptation as Local Government New Zealand President Dave Cull and Minister for Climate Change Hon James Shaw shared the stage at the annual LGNZ Conference in Christchurch.

LGNZ President Dave Cull says local government knows that if we don’t take steps to mitigate the climate change problem, the adaptation challenges that we’re experiencing will become even greater, more complex and significantly more costly.

“Despite all the challenges, local government views the need for climate change adaptation and particularly mitigation as presenting significant opportunities.  The challenges can be overcome.”

“There’s a very clear opportunity for local government to work with central government to put in place an adaptation plan that clearly allocates roles and responsibilities and we’re looking forward to working with the Government to do that.”

“There’s also an urgent need to get on with some adaptation planning now ahead of the completion of the first national risk assessment – we can, for example, start work now on jointly defining a common set of goals, outcomes and priorities for adaptation.”

“Local and central government must work together to develop a legal framework that incentivises and better supports councils to undertake adaptation action and fulfil their ambitions for more resilient communities.”

“And there is also a need for more support from central government, as the costs of adaptation are too significant for local authorities to bear alone,” says Mr Cull.

During his presentation Minister Shaw agreed on need to work together to address the risks and costs of climate change, “We need to establish a financial ecosystem to share and spread risk evenly between and within generations and between central and local government.”

“This is our problem to deal with.  We need to focus on the future and bring everyone along with us.  We need to start thinking about the opportunity, stop thinking about the cost, and think about the investment.  Then we are much more likely to find our way out of this,” said Mr Shaw.

Changes to consultation requirements in Health Act supported by LGNZ

LGNZ supports the Government’s announcements that it is amending the Health Act to enable speedier consultation on new drinking water standards.

“Changes that allow the regulatory regime to be more nimble and responsive to public safety issues are in everyone’s interest” says LGNZ President Dave Cull.

Such changes however differ to the broader reform matters under consideration by Government in the three waters area.  Any changes to regulatory requirements or delivery mechanisms need to be appropriate to proven policy concerns and take account of local considerations.

“Reforms to delivery of water services need to clearly deliver value.  LGNZ is liaising with the Government as it considers options for reform of the three waters regime and the broader delivery arrangements for three waters” said Mr Cull.

“As part of that, we expect meaningful engagement with local government and appropriate consideration of individual council’s circumstances.”

The Havelock North Inquiry recommended an independent regulator for drinking water, mandatory treatment and aggregated water supplies and the Government is considering the merit of these recommendations as part of its reform process.  LGNZ is concerned to ensure that any changes add value and meet the needs of local communities.

National approach to identifying high risk catchments makes sense

Local Government New Zealand has supported the Government’s response to the Land and Water Forum’s recommendations on its national approach to identifying high risk catchments.

“Improving water quality is a priority for councils - regional councils are focused on managing water quality in catchments and territorial authorities in ensuring the appropriate level of investment in infrastructure to meet and improve water quality” says Doug Leeder, Chair of LGNZ’s Regional Sector.

“Both regional and district councils already prioritise locally where investment is directed. A focus on high risk catchments nationally will help to prioritise resources and direct investment where it is most needed and potentially this will create a useful policy and investment framework.

“We note that LAWF was unable to land on a solution to reduce nitrogen leaching. Regional and unitary councils are working with stakeholders on programmes to address nitrogen levels, including good management practice with the primary sector. Achieving sectoral good management practice is critical and we are keen to explore how that can be strengthened. Sectors taking responsibility for their activities is paramount to achieving improved water quality.

“Regional councils have identified aspects of the current planning process that are cumbersome and costly such as the appeal process and ambiguities within the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. We have proposed some solutions to the Minster for the Environment and are looking forward to discussing these with him,” said Mr Leeder.

Upcoming events:

EDS Conference: 1 & 2 August

The Environmental Defence Society are holding their annual conference where the policies that make up the Government’s environmental reform agenda will be put under the spotlight.

LGNZ Climate Change Symposium – 7 September

LGNZ’s Climate Change Symposium will bring together local government, central government and other stakeholders to explore the challenges and opportunity of climate change adaptation and mitigation, solutions to the challenges, and the work that LGNZ and councils across the country are doing to address climate change.

EDS Climate Change and Business Conference – 9 & 10 October

The EDS Climate and Business Conference will explore the potential changes that new climate change policy (and in particular the Zero Carbon Bill) could bring to business, and the need for rapid deployment of new technologies and innovations across the economy and society.  The Conference also features a session on adaptation, including an address by LGNZ President Dave Cull.

Local wins

Palmerston North recognised for art and ambition

Rotorua Lakes Council wins at Local Government NZ awards

Waipa District Council scoops national award

Online voting on council agenda

Rotorua council stalwart’s service praised

In the media

Leadership on waste is welcome

Local levy 'only avenue' says Queenstown Mayor

Questioning call for local decision-making

Rate rises continually outstrip incomes and inflation – do they need an overhaul?

Scientist: start sea level rise planning

Help near for councils, as water changes loom

The Bulletin: How local should government go?

Calls for national wastewater testing for illicit drugs

Making councils identify climate change risks could protect them, local government boss says

Work underway to tackle recycling and waste problems in Aotearoa

Calls for local government to have more power so ‘communities have more say’

Councils to lobby Government to eliminate single-use plastic bags and straws

Whanganui council considers scrapping fizzy drinks from facilities

Councils calls for register to prevent legionnaires