Frontpage News - July 2019

Published: July 22, 2019

News type: National news   

Greetings from LGNZ

How do we empower communities to take charge of their social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being?  Through localism - a global concept that recognises that the best outcomes are a result of local people making local decisions about the places they love.

New Zealand's diversity is only increasing, as regional economies and cultures focus on their local comparative advantages.  Localism aims to fosters this community innovation, resilience and democracy, while reducing the cost of government, through regional policy-making and decentralisation.

We know there are a lot of questions. Why is centralism a problem? Isn't New Zealand too small for localism to work? How can we be sure that councils have the capability to take on extra responsibilities? Won't localism duplicate services and increase costs? Why should we trust councils with more responsibility?

That's why we launched localism.nz and the Localism Discussion Paper, to both provide  answers and ask questions of our current governance arrangements. 

But don't take it from us - read on to find out what a range of commentators from across New Zealand are saying about #localismNZ.

Roadmap for reinvigorating local democracy launched

Over 600 local and central government delegates, including the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, were on hand to hear LGNZ president Dave Cull launch a roadmap to greater localism – ‘Reinvigorating Democracy: The case for localising power and decision making to councils and communities,’ at the opening of the LGNZ Conference in Wellington this afternoon.

Speaking to the theme of the conference, “Riding the localism wave: Putting communities in charge”, Mr Cull spoke of the need to give communities more say in the important decisions that affect their lives if New Zealand is to make meaningful progress on the tough challenges facing our society today.

“For too long New Zealand has operated under the belief that we’re a small, homogenous country, so it makes sense to concentrate decision making in the Beehive. That’s a formula for one-size-fit all, top-down decision making,” said Mr Cull.

“Unfortunately that formula no longer works for New Zealand, if it ever did. It is now starkly clear that the needs of communities in Auckland are starkly different from their immediate neighbours in Northland and the Waikato, let alone those of Gisborne, Taranaki, Marlborough, or Invercargill – and our policy responses need to be flexible to enough to respond to this.”

“But that’s a complexity our highly centralised governance structure struggles to respond to, and it costs us dearly as a nation. It drags on our productivity, raises transaction costs, widens inequality, and frustrates individuals and communities who want to improve their own well-being.”

“If we want to meaningfully tackle these challenges, it is time to let go and give power back to communities. The answer to the problems caused by centralised decision making cannot be more centralisation.”

LGNZ’s localism discussion paper set a proposed framework by which decision making can be handed back to communities in phased and gradual way that ensures greater local decision making is matched by improved capacity and capability of institutions, like councils, to meet these needs.

Developed and refined with the input of hundreds of local elected members, academics, business people, iwi, social sector groups, and civic minded individuals, it is being opened to the wider public for comment and input.

Mr emphasised that greater localism posed a challenge for local government as well, as it required councils to also devolve decision making to communities.

“Localism is about giving decision making power back to individuals, communities, iwi, neighbourhoods, districts and regions, and local and central government are the tools by which we act on those decisions, not the other way round.”

Mr Cull urged central government not to see localism as a challenge, but an opportunity to partner up and meaningfully improve the well-being of New Zealand’s diverse communities.

“Our localist framework recognises that each tier of government has its respective strengths and weaknesses,” said Mr Cull.

“Local government cannot hope to match the concentrated expertise and resources of central government. Nor can central government match the on-the-ground presence, diversity and the proximity to communities that local government has.”

“By working together, and putting communities at the heart of our decision making processes, we can tackle the really tough problems facing us, like environment degradation, climate change, and inequality. Your goals are our goals - we want to ensure that lives of future New Zealanders continue to improve compared the generation that came before them, and that can only be achieved if we work together.”

LGNZ are calling for submissions on the discussion paper, which will help LGNZ promote localism during the build up to the 2020 Parliamentary elections.  For more information on LGNZ’s decentralisation and localism project, go to www.localism.nz, or to make a submission, please send comments or feedback to LGNZ Principal Policy Advisor Dr Mike Reid at mike.reid@lgnz.co.nz by 15 December 2019. 

Updates on the 2019 LGNZ Conference can be found on LGNZ’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, using the hashtags #LocalismNZ and #LGNZ19.

LGNZ president Dave Cull’s speech can also be found here

School Strike 4 Climate organisers give politicians a serve

School Strike 4 Climate NZ organisers Sophie Handford and Raven Maeder delivered a clear message to over 600 local government mayors, chairs, chief executives and councillors at the recent LGNZ conference: make climate change a priority.

“If you could boil it down to one thing, what we’re calling for is bold and visionary leadership from everyone in this room,” said Maeder.

Although the experienced youth organisers may have expected a frosty reception, the response was far from it.  Councils are on the front line in the battle against climate change, leading on both mitigation and adaptation measures.  LGNZ established the mitigation focused ‘Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration’ in 2015 and a number of councils have called climate change emergencies to increase central government’s focus on establishing a national adaptation framework.

“Local government needs to put mitigation and adaptation at the centre of all planning, development and council operations,” stated Handford.

“We demand that local government put in place comprehensive adaptation plans to safeguard their communities against the effects of climate change.  We need to begin building community and ecosystem resilience now.”

While climate change is typically considered a generational issue, the high rate of mayors and chairs both signing up to the declaration and calling climate emergencies is evidence of a strong appetite among councils to front foot  climate change issues, particularly around adaptation.

“It’s only fair that young people are hacked off about the lack of leadership around climate change when they see the piecemeal response to the single biggest threat to our existence,” said LGNZ president Dave Cull.

“Right now we’re responding to droughts, floods and fires as they arise. What we need is a coordinated response to ensure that the impact of these events is minimised in future, and that activities we undertake and enable don’t make the problem of climate change worse in the future.”

“Sophie and Raven’s message really put our work in perspective – there’s not many issues that are bigger and to address climate change we need a cohesive, national approach to how we deal with climate change’s effects.”

“The challenge for councils is that we can only respond with the scope of the law as it exists now, which largely without climate change in mind. We need central government to do its part, and urgently, because right now we’re responding to climate change with one hand tied behind our back.”

LGNZ are continuing to advocate for a joined-up national approach to climate change, as highlighted in the ‘Vulnerable…’ report on sea level rise, which revealed $14 billion in local government infrastructure is at risk from sea level rise.

“I want to see bold and visionary leadership, and we’re already seeing that across the country,” continued Maeder at the LGNZ Conference.

“I’ve been really inspired by what some local leaders have been doing - mayors that are standing up to fossil fuel companies and putting the needs of their community, both present and future, first.” 

“I just hope that we continue to see that and that together we can really ensure that we have an Aotearoa that is liveable for future generations.”

Video of the ‘Climate change – a stitch in time’ presentation can be viewed here on lgnz.co.nz.

Local government debate remits at AGM

A record 21 remits were made official Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) policy at LGNZ’s Annual General Meeting, from a total of 24 remits that were voted on. 

This year’s remits covered issues as varied as climate change, to fireworks, tourist accommodation, building defects, campgrounds, alcohol, road safety and the beauty industry.

LGNZ president Dave Cull cited the large number of remits and strong debate as a sign that the sector needs fit-for-purpose legislation in a number of areas.

“The large number of remits voted on today shows that members appreciate in LGNZ’s ability to drive positive change for our communities, who have asked for better legislation across a number of areas,” says Mr Cull.

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

The remits results are outlined below:

Climate change – local government representation

That LGNZ calls on the Government to include local government representation (as determined by local government) at all levels of policy development, technical risk and resilience assessment, and data acquisition on climate change response policies – with an emphasis on climate adaptation: policy; legal; planning; and financial compensation regimes.

The remit was passed with 100 per cent support of the sector.

Ban on the sale of fireworks to the general public

That LGNZ works with central government to introduce legislation to ban the sale of fireworks to the general public and end their private use.

The remit was passed with 64 per cent support of the sector.

Traffic offences – red light running

That LGNZ request the Government to bring into line camera and officer detected red light running offences with other traffic offences that incur demerit points.

The remit was passed with 87 per cent support of the sector.

Prohibit parking on grass berms

To seek an amendment to clause 6.2 of the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 to prohibit parking on urban berms.

The remit failed with 71 per cent of the sector against.

Short-term guest accommodation

That LGNZ advocates for enabling legislation that would allow councils to require all guest accommodation providers to register with the council and that provides an efficient approach to imposing punitive action on operators who don’t comply.

The remit was passed with 70 per cent support of the sector.

Nitrate in drinking water

That LGNZ recommend to the Government the funding of additional research into the effects of nitrates in drinking water on human health, and/or partner with international public health organisations to promote such research, in order to determine whether the current drinking water standard for nitrate is still appropriate for the protection of human health.

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

Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (1987)

That LGNZ initiates a review of Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (1987) (LGOIMA) request management nationally with a view to establishing clear and descriptive reporting for and by local authorities that will create a sector-wide picture of:

  • Trends in the volume and nature of LGOIMA requests over time.
  • Trends in users.
  • The impacts of technology in terms of accessing information sought and the amount of information now held by local authorities (and able to be requested).
  • The financial and resource impacts on local authorities in managing the LGOIMA function.

That LGNZ use the data obtained to:

  • Identify opportunities to streamline or simplify LGOIMA processes.
  • Share best practice between local authorities.
  • Assess the value of a common national local government framework of practice for LGOIMA requests.
  • Identify opportunities to advocate for legislation changes on behalf of the sector (where these are indicated).

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

Weed control

That LGNZ encourages member councils to consider using environmentally friendly weed control methods.

The remit was passed with 93 per cent support of the sector.

Building defects claims

LGNZ calls on central government to take action as recommended by the Law Commission in its 2014 report on “Liability of Multiple Defendants” to introduce a cap on the liability of councils in New Zealand in relation to building defects claims whilst joint and several liability applies.

The remit was passed with 93 per cent support of the sector.

Social housing

That LGNZ, in conjunction with central government, urgently focus on the development and implementation of a broader range of funding and financing tools in respect of community/social housing provision, than those which currently exist in the housing needs space. These should include funding to support the operation, upgrade and growth of council housing portfolios and, where a council chooses, access to Income Related Rents for eligible tenants.

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

Procurement

That LGNZ investigate the ability of the sector to collaborate in procuring open-source designs and plans for bulk infrastructure that are largely similar, with an initial approach to look at water and wastewater treatment facilities.

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

 Single use polystyrene

That LGNZ advocates to the Government to phase out single use polystyrene.

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

Local Government Act 2002

That LGNZ pursue an amendment to the Local Government Act 2002 to:

Re-number sub-sections 181 (5) and (6) to sub-sections (6) and (7);

and

Introduce a new sub-section (5) to read: For all purposes the term “any work” in subsection 4 means any works constructed before xx Month 20xx; and includes any works that were wholly or partly in existence, or work on the construction of which commenced, before xx Month 20xx.

The remit was passed with 92 per cent support of the sector.

Campground regulations

That LGNZ request the Government to amend the Camping – Ground Regulations to allow councils to approve remote camp facilities on private property, subject to any such conditions as deemed required by a council, including the condition that any approved campground is x distance away from an existing campground, unless the existing campground operator agrees to waive this condition in writing.

The remit was passed with 86 per cent support of the sector.

Living wage

Wellington City Council asks that LGNZ members consider engaging with the Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand Movement when developing policies on payment of the Living Wage.

The remit was passed with 62 per cent support of the sector.

Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act

LGNZ, on behalf of its member councils ask for a review of the effectiveness of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 in reducing alcohol harm (eg price, advertising, purchase age and availability) and fully involve local government in that review.

The remit was passed with 88 per cent support of the sector.

Greenhouse gases

Wellington City Council asks that LGNZ members collectively adopt the position that government should revise the Resource Management Act 1991 to adequately consider the impact of greenhouse gases when making decisions under that law and to ensure that the Resource Management Act 1991 is consistent with the Zero Carbon Bill.

The remit was passed with 64 per cent support of the sector.

Climate change – policy framework

That LGNZ recommends to government that they establish an independent expert group to develop a new policy framework for adapting to climate change impacts as recommended by the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group (CCATWG). This new expert group would be supported by a secretariat and stakeholder advisory group.

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

Road safety

  • That LGNZ acknowledges that the New Zealand Transport Agency's (NZTA's), Code of Practice for Temporary Traffic Management (CoPTTM) is a comprehensive and robust document, and that NZTA ensures the CoPTTM system is regularly reviewed, refined and updated. However, in light of the recent road worker fatalities LGNZ requests NZTA, in partnership with Road Controlling Authorities (RCAs);
    1. Review afresh its Code of Practice for Temporary Traffic Management (CoPTTM} to satisfy themselves that;
      • The document provides sufficient guidelines and procedures to ensure approaching traffic are given every possible opportunity to become aware of the worksite ahead and to respond appropriately and in a timely manner.
    2. Review its CoPTTM Training System to ensure;
      1. Trainers are sufficiently qualified and adequately covering the training syllabus.
      2. Site Traffic Management Supervisors (STMS's) and Traffic Controllers (TC's) are only certified when they can demonstrate competence in the application of CoPTTM.
  • A robust refresher programme is in place to ensure those in charge of Traffic Management on worksites remain current in the required competencies.
  1. Review its Site Auditing requirements to ensure the traffic management at worksites is independently audited at a sufficient frequency to ensure compliance, and that a significantly robust system is put in place to enable enforcement of compliance.
  • That LGNZ takes steps to remind its members of their duties with respect to their role as Road Controlling Authorities including;
    1. Appointing and sufficiently training and resourcing a Traffic Management Co-ordinator to ensure their obligations under the Health and Safety Work Act 2015, with respect to traffic management, are being met.
    2. Adequately resourcing and undertaking audits of road work sites to ensure compliance with CoPTTM.

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

Mobility scooter safety

That LGNZ requests that government investigate the introduction of strengthened rules to govern the safe use of mobility scooters, particularly in relation to speed limits and registration.

Mobility scooters - The remit was passed with 73 per cent support of the sector.

E-Scooters - The remit was passed with 49 per cent support of the sector. (Passed because of the number of abstentions.)

Museums and galleries

That central government funding be made available on an annual basis for museums and galleries operated by territorial authorities with nationally significant collections.

The remit was passed with 91 per cent support of the sector.

Resource Management Act

That the selection of all independent commissioners for Resource Management Act hearings be centralised to improve independence and enhance the quality of decisions.

The remit failed with 76 per cent of the sector against.

Mayor decision to appoint Deputy Mayor

That LGNZ request the Government to amend S.41A of the LGA2002 to give mayors the same powers to appoint a deputy mayor as held by the Mayor of Auckland.

The remit failed with 72 per cent of the sector against.

Beauty industry 

That LGNZ calls on the Government to develop and implement national guidelines, policy or regulations to achieve national consistency for the largely unregulated ‘health and beauty clinic’ industry.

The remit was passed with 84 per cent support of the sector.

Cull: LGNZ conference challenges sector to change

As Dave Cull delivered the closing address at the recent 2019 LGNZ Conference, it was immediately apparent from both the number of attendees who remained for the last session, as well as the still present energy in the TSB Arena, that the four day event had been a significant success for not just LGNZ, but for the entire sector.

The theme of the AGM and conference was reinvigorating local democracy, through devolving power and decision-making to councils and communities.  While there was extensive discussion of decentralisation and localism, first and foremost the questions being asked were ‘how can we, as stewards of local democracy, improve it?’

The AGM well and truly got this underway, as our members updated the rules governing the composition of the National Council to better reflect our great country, by establishing a full seat at the table for Te Maruata, as well as better representation for Auckland.  These changes recognised both our obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi to tangata whenua, and the need to recognise the population of our Auckland area communities.  These changes were well supported, with 98% of the votes supporting the Te Maruata seat.

The opening ceremony on Sunday was marked by the launch of our Localism Discussion Paper, which proposes to not just devolve decision making and responsibility to our communities, but for central government to untie the arm from behind our backs so that we can better achieve our existing responsibilities.

Dame Tariana Turia reflected on why our future must be different from the past.  She supported what I briefly touched on in my earlier speech, that localism is not a new wave at all, but was the primary method of governance among whānau, hapū and iwi before the arrival of Europeans.  Greater localism is about lifting everyone up to self-governance, and empowering everyone, rather than more centralisation, where a small group gets to decide for everyone.

Phil O’Reilly, of Iron Duke Partners, delivered a business perspective on localism, an idea whose time he believes has come.  He was very positive on the Productivity Commission’s report on local government funding and financing and believes the current system is wrong-headed and needs to change.  Reflecting on his time on Finland he also noted that what they can’t teach us is about the diversity of New Zealand’s population, and for all of New Zealand’s desire to mimic other countries, we are going to need a specific New Zealand brand of localism.

The climate change session, featuring Raven Maeder and Sophie Handford, organisers of the School Strike 4 Climate, alongside Auckland Council Chief Sustainability Officer John Mauro, was particularly eye-opening, as we were treated to the perspective of the next generation, and their call for bold leadership on climate change. “The context of every city or region is different… but what we’re calling for is bold and visionary leadership from everyone in this room, you hold our future in your hands,” was the key message from Raven.

In a more light-hearted session, conference MC Paddy Gower grilled three former local, now central government politicians on whether they had ‘drunk the central government kool-aid’.  National MP and former LGNZ President Lawrence Yule, Green MP Chloe Swarbrick and Labour MP Paul Eagle were all candid in sharing their thoughts and there were a lot of a laughs to be had – a testament to the strength of character in all three!

And finally, Colin D Ellis left us on a high note, with the energetic Liverpudlian talking about the hallmarks of powerful leadership – “The first thing good leaders do is create more leaders,” was a key point. 

While localism calls for devolution and decentralisation, it’s up to local government leaders to devolve power to communities, and lead by example, rather than waiting for central government to make the first move.  Local government can and should lead the change they need.

LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards highlight local government achievement

Gisborne District Council topped the table of winners in the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) EXCELLENCE Awards, taking home overall honours in an outstanding field.

The EXCELLENCE Awards, now in their sixth year, recognise and celebrate excellent performance by local councils to promote and grow the well-being of their communities. Winners were announced at the Fulton Hogan conference dinner and EXCELLENCE Awards function in Wellington on Monday 8 July.

Gisborne’s innovative Tupapa – Our Stand Our Story project, a bilingual, multimedia experience which connects local culture to the local environment, won the Fulton Hogan LOCAL EXCELLENCE Award. This project was also highly commended in the Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Cultural Well-being section.

Wellington City Council won two of the award categories. Its ambitious and successful Wellington Waterfront project won the MartinJenkins EXCELLENCE Award for Economic Wellbeing; and its popular Visa Wellington on a Plate festival won the Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Cultural Well-being.

Rounding out the award winners were Palmerston North City Council and Taranaki Regional Council. Palmerston North’s Festival of Cultures won the EXCELLENCE Award for Social Well-being; and Taranaki Regional Council won the Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Well-being for its large-scale Riparian Management Programme.

Hurunui District Council’s Taking the Plunge – The story of HDC and the Waiau Pool, the post-earthquake rebuild of its local pool; and Napier City Council’s new Andersen Park Playground project were both highly commended in the EXCELLENCE Award for Social Well-being category.

Waitaki District Council was highly commended in the MartinJenkins EXCELLENCE Award for Economic Well-being category for H20OurHealth – Waitaki Water for Connected Communities, its project to build a pipeline for the supply safe and reliable drinking water.

LGNZ President Dave Cull said: “Our judges commended all the finalists in the awards and said there were more high quality entries in the LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards this year than ever before.

“Overall the judges felt the strongest entries demonstrated strong leadership and proven results over long periods of time, and particularly noted those with a strong strategic vision and a focus on delivery. The winners and highly commended entries are exceptional projects which are having a profound effect on the well-being of their communities.”

LGNZ also honoured two extraordinary contributors to local government, outgoing West Auckland councillor Penny Hulse and Opotiki Mayor John Forbes with the Te Tari Taiwhenua Internal Affairs EXCELLENCE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Local Government.

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

The LGNZ National Council said “both award recipients are champions for their regions and outstanding leaders who have made a tremendous contribution to the sector”.

The winners and finalists in the category awards for councils incorporate best practice criteria from LGNZ’s CouncilMARKTM  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.

LGNZ EXCELLENCE AWARDS 2019

Winners

  • Fulton Hogan LOCAL EXCELLENCE Award: Gisborne District Council, Tupapa – Our Stand Our Story
  • MartinJenkins EXCELLENCE Award for Economic Wellbeing: Wellington City Council, Wellington Waterfront
  • Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Cultural Well-being: Wellington City Council,
  • Wellington on a Plate festival
  • EXCELLENCE Award for Social Well-being: Palmerston North City Council, Festival of Cultures
  • Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Well-being: Taranaki Regional Council, Riparian Management Programme

Highly commended

  • EXCELLENCE Award for Social Well-being: Hurunui District Council, Taking the Plunge – the story of HDC and the Waiau Pool; and Napier City Counci, new Andersen Park Playground
  • MartinJenkins EXCELLENCE Award for Economic Well-being: Waitaki District Council, H20OurHealth – Waitaki Water for Connected Communities 

Individual awards

  • Te Tari Taiwhenua Internal Affairs EXCELLENCE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Local Government: Penny Hulse (West Auckland councillor); John Forbes (Opotiki Mayor)

Nominations open for local council elections

If you see yourself as a potential leader and are passionate about your community then now’s your chance to give local politics a go and have a say in your community’s future.

Nominations for candidates wishing to stand in this year’s local council elections opened on Friday 19 July and will close at noon on Friday 16 August.

Local Government New Zealand Chief Executive Malcolm Alexander says anyone wishing to stand as a candidate for their local council, local board or community board should get their nominations in now.

“Standing for local council is an incredible opportunity for people to have their say about the issues that affect their community directly and develop their leadership skills,” Mr Alexander says.

“We have an incredible pool of talent in New Zealand – dedicated Kiwis who are already becoming leaders in their communities.”

"Standing for their local council is a great way to step up and have real influence over the key issues affecting their families, friends and communities, and we encourage them to come forward now,” Mr Alexander says.

Meanwhile LGNZ has launched its Vote 2019 campaign, which aims to lift nationwide voter turnout in local elections and increase people’s engagement with their local council.

The national Vote 2019 campaign showcases the value local government provides to communities across the country, with a strong focus on inspiring more New Zealanders to vote, and building a pool of skilled candidates to stand in their communities.

Voting papers will be sent out from 20 September and need to be filled in and posted in time to reach the electoral office by 12 noon on Saturday 12 October.

“Providing communities with a choice of candidates that they feel confident will make the best decisions for their area is vital.  We also hope that a pool of competent and passionate candidates will drive even more citizens to vote this year,” Mr Alexander says.

For further information on standing as a candidate contact your local council, visit www.vote2019.co.nz or contact your electoral officer.

Prod Comm report supports LGNZ’s calls for funding and financing revamp

A draft report on local government funding and financing by the Productivity Commission has put the spotlight on a number of issues that LGNZ have been calling for central government action on.

The report, commissioned by the Government, looks at whether existing funding and financing arrangements are suitable for enabling local authorities to meet current and future cost pressures. It finds that a high-performing local government is vital for community wellbeing, but that councils are struggling to deal with rising costs, and that incentives are misaligned.

“It’s pleasing to see the productivity commission’s report calling out issues that LGNZ has been raising for some time,” says LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“They have identified four key areas where the existing funding model for councils is insufficient to address cost pressures, including the demand for infrastructure in high-growth areas, tourism hotspots, unfunded mandates and climate change adaptation.”

The local government sector agrees with the commission’s focus on the “benefit principle” – that those who benefit from (or cause the need for) additional services or infrastructure should pay for it.

“Unfunded mandates, where central government invisibly shifts costs onto ratepayers, are a huge burden and make it impossible for taxpayers and ratepayers to hold both tiers of government to account. Full disclosure of the costs that central government impose on councils is needed to improve the quality of the decision-making at both levels.”

“We welcome the Commission’s tourism levy recommendation. The tourism boom has put huge pressure on ratepayers, who pay for the infrastructure that visitors use, while receiving little direct financial benefit, which instead largely goes to central government in the form of GST, profit taxes and salary taxes. This is unsustainable, and practically speaking either central government provides a form of funding or it pulls the handbrake on our tourism sector.”

The draft report also finds that local government spending has remained constant as a share of GDP over the long-term, and that spending has been focused on essential infrastructure, with roading and 3 waters accounting for 56% of capital expenditure over the last decade.

“Hopefully this report will quell long-standing but incorrect perceptions of the local government sector. This report underscores our track record as prudent public stewards whose investments and activities are focused on enabling communities to grow their well-being.”

LGNZ said the challenge is now on central government and Finance Minister Grant Robertson in particular to meaningfully address the issues raised by Commission’s draft report.  

“The Productivity Commission has a track record of providing practical and well-reasoned advice based on strong evidence,” continued Mr Cull. “Our recommendation is that the Government take this advice.”

“These findings will greatly add to discussion at the 2019 LGNZ Conference and the launch of our Localism Discussion Paper, which is focused on restoring the balance between local and central government through greater localism, decision-making and resourcing for our communities.

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