Frontpage News - June 2019

Published: June 25, 2019

News type: National news   

We're ten days away from the LGNZ Conference, and that means the biggest night in local government is almost here - the LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards!

This year there are 14 amazing finalist entries vying for five awards - find out more about their projects in this issues.

We've also rounded up the top stories from around the sector - read on to find out what's been happening.

Greetings from LGNZ

The LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards have had a revamp this year, and in each category the winners will need to show the judges they're delivering outstanding results across one of the four well-beings; social, economic, environmental and cultural.  In addition, one of the finalists will be awarded the overall Fulton Hogan Local EXCELLENCE Award! 

While the candidate registrations for the 2019 Local Body Elections don't open until July 19, there's been plenty of media interest already - it appears a youthquake is slowly rumbling up the country. 

We need the next generation of leaders to start getting involved on the issues that affect their communities.  In this edition of Frontpage News, you'll be able to find out what we're saying about some of the most pressing issues - china sword and New Zealand's plans for better recycling, problem gambling, housing and more.

LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards showcase outstanding leadership by local councils

The high levels of service local councils provide to communities across New Zealand are again demonstrated through the exceptional range and standard of finalists in the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) EXCELLENCE Awards.

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. The awards are open to all of New Zealand’s 78 local authorities each year.

Award recipients will be announced at the Fulton Hogan conference dinner and EXCELLENCE Awards function on in Wellington Monday 8 July 2019.

In addition, one or more individuals will be awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Local Government Award and conference dinner sponsor Fulton Hogan will also select the overall Local EXCELLENCE Award from among the finalists.

Local authorities were invited to submit in four categories:

  • EXCELLENCE Award for Social Well-being
  • MartinJenkins EXCELLENCE Award for Economic Well-being
  • Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Well-being
  • Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Cultural Well-being.

Judges for the awards are former Wellington Mayor Dame Kerry Prendergast, distinguished diplomat and public servant Sir Maarten Wevers, and Executive Director of the New Zealand Initiative, Dr Oliver Hartwich.

The 14 finalists for the LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards 2019 are:

EXCELLENCE Award for Social Well-Being

  • Hurunui District Council: Taking the Plunge – The Story of HDC and the Waiau Pool – A post-earthquake project to successfully rebuild the Waiau School and Community Pool.
  • Kāpiti Coast District Council: Youth Development Centre Initiative – This project addressed young people’s needs for space and activities to connect and support them in their community.
  • Napier City Council: Anderson Park Playground – A new playground that caters to all abilities and all ages featuring New Zealand’s tallest playground tower, a wheelchair accessible mini-tower, climbing and swing structures, water play, functional artwork and interactive elements.
  • Palmerston North City Council – Festival of Cultures – An annual weeklong event celebrating diversity and encouraging celebration and connection through music, film, performance, cultural dress, craft and food.

 MartinJenkins EXCELLENCE Award for Economic Well-being

  • Hastings District Council – Te Ara Kahikatea – Whakatu Arterial Link: A journey of cultural inclusiveness and community empowerment – The construction of an arterial route improving the district’s economic and social well-being, following extensive community consultation.
  • Thames-Coromandel District Council – Whitianga Town Centre Upgrade: Stage One – This project is the first stage of upgrading the town centre to a mixed-use space, involving the renewal of underground infrastructure, widening footpaths, landscaping, town square and plaza installation, and a playground upgrade.
  • Wellington City Council – Wellington Waterfront – The 18-year transformation of Wellington’s waterfront to become the gateway to Wellington. The waterfront is now a multi-use space, harnessing award-winning design and architecture with heritage and culture.
  • Waitaki District Council – H2OurHealth – Waitaki Water for Connected Communities – The construction of a 34-kilometre pipeline from Oamaru to Hampden to supply safe and reliable drinking water.

Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Well-being

  • Hamilton City Council – Helping New Zealanders See the Light – The installation of 13,000 customised LED streetlights which has reduced costs to the city and significantly improved both road safety and environmental outcomes.
  • Taranaki Regional Council – Riparian Management Programme – A large-scale restorative freshwater programme supporting native habitats and improved ecological health.
  • Thames-Coromandel District Council – The Coromandel Electric Vehicle Touring Loop – A network of fast charging stations at key points around the Coromandel, putting the entire district in range of electric vehicle travel.

Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Cultural Well-being

  • Gisborne District Council – Tupapa – Our Stand. Our Story – A bilingual, multimedia resource developed with local iwi to tell the region’s story: a dual heritage of great navigators and first arrivals in New Zealand.
  • Hamilton City Council – Maangai Māori – Creating History in Hamilton – A project designed to give Māori a strong and meaningful voice in running the city of Hamilton. 
  • Wellington City Council – Visa Wellington on a Plate – Visa Wellington on a Plate is New Zealand’s largest culinary festival celebrating food, community and culture while supporting Wellington’s restaurants using local Wellington produce.

Youth voting to shine a light on local candidates

Youth across New Zealand will experience a local council election first-hand as voters in the Youth Voting 2019 programme.

Supported by Local Government New Zealand as part of its Vote 2019 campaign for the October local elections, Youth Voting gives students aged 11 to 15 years the opportunity to engage with real issues, decide which candidates best represent their own views, and vote for real candidates in their region.  Around 42 schools and 6,290 students registered three years ago.

LGNZ is now calling for further expressions of interest for Youth Voting 2019. A letter has been sent to all schools with students in years 7 to 10 inviting them to participate and already 57 have signed up.

Although the students' votes will not be officially counted, the experience of participating in a real election is a powerful way to instil an understanding of the value and importance of local government in New Zealand’s future voters.

LGNZ vice-president Stuart Crosby said Youth Voting aligns with LGNZ’s Vote 2019 campaign to lift nationwide voter turnout in local elections and increase people’s engagement with their local council.

“Youth Voting is an engaging teaching resource in political awareness, giving our future voters a real and meaningful experience of the value and importance of the democratic process. They get engaged with local issues, think about what matters and see how their power to vote can make a difference.” 

“There is still plenty of time for schools to get involved and give the next generation the voting experience.”

Visit www.vote2019.co.nz/youth-voting to get the teaching resource and find more information on Youth Voting.

LGNZ see potential in new urban development authority

A newly announced urban development authority - Kāinga Ora–Homes and Communities – has the potential to address our housing crisis, but shouldn’t put regional New Zealand in its blind spot says LGNZ President Dave Cull.

LGNZ broadly welcomes this initiative to address the housing shortage in some of our fasting growing areas, where red tape has choked both the market and local government’s ability to provide the houses that our citizens need.

“The establishment of Kāinga Ora–Homes and Communities is a further recognition from the government that our current housing regulations are not fit for purpose,” says LGNZ President Dave Cull.

LGNZ believes the challenge will be extending the work beyond the big cities, recognising that one agency, even with the firepower of Kāinga Ora-Homes and Communities, cannot meet the housing needs across the whole country.

“While we recognise that the housing supply problem is most acute in Auckland, it is actually a nationwide problem.  Housing affordability is as much a challenge to the people that live in places like Nelson, Invercargill, and Taupō, as it is to the residents of Auckland, Tauranga and Queenstown.”

Local Government New Zealand has long maintained that the only way to do that is to do root and branch reform of our urban planning and building sector legislation, and that the regulatory workarounds being extended to the UDA need to be extended to the rest of New Zealand’s communities as well. 

“We look forward to working with the Minister and the new ministry on this initiative, to ensure that we have a fit for purpose regulatory regime in place that ensures New Zealanders have access to affordable housing – be they home owners or renters.”

Recycling changes need to allocate costs fairly

A recent central government announcement to recharge New Zealand’s recycling system is encouraging for local government, but will require a serious commitment to co-design with local government and putting the onus on waste producers to take a more sustainable approach.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will be aware of the pressure that China’s National Sword ban on has put on New Zealand’s waste and recycling industry.

In response to this, the Government set up a National Resource Recovery (NRR) Taskforce in mid-2018 to come up with recommendations to deal with New Zealand’s recycling issues.  In particular the taskforce was asked to consider how we can develop better onshore processing of recyclables and shift to a circular economy approach.

The small size of our population has traditionally meant that recycling plastic onshore hasn’t made economic sense, so we have employed the technology and scale of other countries’ industry to assist with plastics recycling.

However, China, as well as a number of key recycling importers in Asia have been overwhelmed with the amount of material that they’re receiving, and have legislated against more importation.  Many councils are now either stockpiling or landfilling plastic grades 3-7, which they previously shipped offshore through their contracted waste management providers.

In conjunction with the waste and recycling industry and technical specialists at local councils, the NRR taskforce has developed eight recommendations, which were announced by Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage immediately after the most recent LGNZ Metro Sector meeting in mid-May.

The recommendations include identifying gaps in materials recovery and waste infrastructure to see where investment is needed, reviewing kerbside collection, undertaking feasibility studies on how to increase New Zealand’s onshore paper, cardboard and plastics reprocessing capacity and importantly, assessing options to shift manufacturers away from low value and difficult to recycle plastics.

These are all admirable goals, that LGNZ support.  As the facilitators of much of New Zealand’s recycling processes, its vital then that councils are intimately involved in the co-design and development of these recommendations.  There is a danger that without the benefit of practical local government insight, the solutions will not take account of the reality on the ground.

This insight includes making sure that solutions are economically viable, and that they don’t rely on simply handing the ratepayer another un-funded mandate.  Designing system wide changes will need to take account of regional variety and the nuance of how the current system works, and can be improved, something councils are well versed in.

As expressed by the local government sector through a number of remits, councils are also very keen to see waste and recycling tackled at its source, through product stewardship schemes and incentives that ensure waste producers face the true costs from their activities, in order to change their behaviour.

Unfortunately, right now ratepayers are subsidising the activities of waste producers, who are happy to churn out low cost, unrecyclable material, but contribute little in the way of dealing with it.

Sticking to the old adage of the ‘three Rs’ – ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ we believe that there’s a lot we can do to incentivise reduction of non-recyclable waste in the first instance.

That means creating a framework where it makes economic sense for packaging companies to use plastics that aren’t single use.  While it is fantastic that we’ve managed to get a ban on single use plastic bags across the line, we need a similar scheme in place for all the other plastics that result from your average trip to the supermarket.

It’s clearly something that New Zealanders are looking for, and shows why the plastic bag ban was a good thing – it’s allowed us to attack a small problem, and then move onto bigger issues. 

So we commend the Minister for the programme, but we ask for meaningful co-design alongside councils, appropriate sharing of costs, and a focus on reducing waste at its source, which will be vital to ensuring ratepayers and citizens also support the implementation of better recycling solutions in New Zealand.

Community voices needed to fight gambling harm

LGNZ were pleased to see consensus reached among a number of submitters at Gisborne District Council’s recent hearings on the council’s draft gambling policy, but believe that a fundamental change is needed to enable communities to effect real change on the impact of pokie machines in our communities.

The panel heard submissions from 12 individuals and organisations, where a theme emerged around the need for a well-resourced national problem gambling service.  The message from the Gaming Machine Association was that the industry would like to see more of their levy used to provide such a service.  Community groups also access to problem gambling services be made equal if not more prolific than access to pokie machines themselves.

According to the Problem Gambling Foundation, New Zealander’s lost $2.334 billion in gambling in the 2016/17 financial year, making it a significant issue, with 37% of that, or $830 million, coming from non-casino pokies.

Alarmingly, just under 50% of the people accessing the PGF’s services are for these class 4 gaming machines.

What the statistics and feedback to councils show is that as well as having strong national support for problem gambling services, we also need to enable our communities to choose their own destiny when it comes to the proliferation of pokie machines, and the rules around them.  The current ‘ambulance at the bottom of a cliff’ approach is not enough.

On this issue, LGNZ have submitted on the Draft Strategy to Prevent and Minimise Gambling Harm 2019-22 which is currently being developed by the Ministry of Health, and have called out the need to give communities real power, not just the rights to consultation.

LGNZ believes that where communities deem pokie machines acceptable, then there should be the opportunity to allow them.  However, where a communities would like to restrict class 4 gaming machines, they should equally be able to implement measures that reflect their aspirations.

Objective 3 of the Draft Strategy is that ‘People participate in decision-making about activities in their communities that minimise gambling harm,’ which is enabled under the Gambling Act 2003. 

The issue with this objective is that in many circumstances the policies lack the teeth to meet community expectations, which stems from the scope delegated under the Gambling Act.

The lack of powers to meet communities’ aspirations, particularly with regard to reducing the number of machines in a location, which ultimately discourages participation as the review process increasingly becomes a pointless ritual.

The issue is directly relevant to the question asked in the consultation paper about the "what barriers, if any, do you think currently exist to moving Class 4 gambling venues out of lower socioeconomic areas?"

At the moment the current law is a barrier as it makes no provision to reduce numbers (other than through a sinking lid policy) and makes no allowance for incentives to encourage gaming machine operators to change the number or location of their machines. 

LGNZ would like to see this change.  Councils need the flexibility of regional policy to create the spaces and places that their communities desire.  That means central government giving our communities meaningful regulatory powers, and not just paying lip service to the idea of community decision-making.

Local leaders urged to consider election run early

Local Government New Zealand is encouraging community-minded leaders to get ahead of the game and start thinking about running for their upcoming local council elections now.

“New Zealand is fortunate to have a lot of community-orientated people, who provide leadership through their local sporting, social and community organisations,” says LGNZ Chief Executive Malcolm Alexander.

“Standing for council is an incredible opportunity for these people to take the next step for their community on the issues that affect them directly and an excellent way to further develop leadership skills.”

“While candidate nominations open on 19 July 2019, we want potential candidates to start thinking about their future in local government now, so they have all the support and information they need ahead of the election,” he said.

Mr Alexander said ensuring elected representatives had the abilities, diversity of skills and training to respond to major community issues was an important part of a successful election process.

“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.”

LGNZ recently announced the launch of 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 will showcase the value local government provides to communities across the country, with a strong focus on inspiring more New Zealanders to vote, and encouraging candidates to stand in their communities.

Significant support, including governance training and guidance through LGNZ’s EquiP professional development programme, is provided for newly elected members, and ensures a consistent level of capability across the sector.  People interested in finding out more about standing as a local council election candidate are encouraged to contact their local council’s electoral officer or visit vote2019.co.nz to view the Candidate Guide 2019.

LGNZ also encourages candidates to visit www.councilmark.co.nz, to view their council’s report or encourage their council to register.  The CouncilMARK™ programme is best described as a measure of performance assessment and continuous improvement that assists councils to deliver top service and value to their communities.

“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 for these people to take the next step and have real influence over the key issues affecting their families, friends and communities, and we encourage them to come forward now,” said Mr Alexander.

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