In this edition of Frontpage News we provide our early response to the Government’s $3 billion-over-three-years Provincial Growth Fund, preview this week’s meeting with Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis on freedom camping, and provide an update on the CouncilMARK™ local government excellence programme.
In this edition
• Greetings from LGNZ
• Regions get boost with Provincial Growth Fund
• Freedom camping discussions important step to action
• CouncilMARK™ - new reports released, more assessments underway
• Civil defence review offers useful recommendations
• LGNZ Conference 2018 – Save the Date
Greetings from LGNZ
It has certainly been a busy start to the year! LGNZ has been progressing work on its key policy priorities and continuing to develop partnerships with the new Government. There has been good engagement with Ministers and officials and we continue to advocate for local input into policy development on major issues including climate change, water, civil defence, housing and tourism.
The report from new Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton calling for a structured and long-term approach to climate change includes a number of important recommendations, Local Government New Zealand says.
A Zero Carbon Act for New Zealand: Revisiting Stepping stones to Paris and beyond says New Zealand needs to move on from a stop/start approach to such a significant problem, a position long held by LGNZ.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says introducing a Zero Carbon Act and a UK-style Climate Commission will require care to ensure they are suitable for New Zealand, and that the Commissioner’s recommendations provide sensible and pragmatic options around introducing emissions reduction targets in a staged manner.
Mr Cull says while the report focuses predominantly on mitigation we cannot ignore climate change adaptation, which presents the biggest challenges for local government and New Zealand’s communities.
“We agree with the Commissioner when he says the proposal to enact a Zero Carbon Act and create a Climate Commission provides an opportunity to reset the way New Zealand has been approaching our responsibilities around climate change adaptation,” Mr Cull says.
“We need to make some major changes and there is an urgent need for local and central government to be in alignment on adaptation.
“Local government is ready to do more but needs direction from the national level on a clearer decision-making environment and agreement on the financial responsibilities and funding for adaptation. We also think the Government needs to lead a national education and engagement programme to ensure communities are aware of the full extent of climate change impacts.”
Mr Cull says it is critical that the local government sector is involved in any conversations and decisions about the place of adaptation in the Zero Carbon Act and has a role in determining what agency or mechanism is adopted to carry out that work.
LGNZ also acknowledges the report’s strong focus on risk mitigation and its recommendation that the Zero Carbon Act includes regular national-level risk assessments and national adaptation strategy planning. It is LGNZ’s view this is now a critical and urgent need.
“A Local Government Risk Agency, developed between local government and the Crown in 2016 as a national agency to pool and coordinate local government resources to lower the risk and cost of disaster, would be the right platform for that work and we need to progress this with some urgency,” Mr Cull says.
The $1 billion Provincial Growth Fund launched by the Government in late February will give New Zealand’s regions a boost and help unlock the potential of our rural and smaller centres, Local Government New Zealand says.
The Provincial Growth Fund, launched in Gisborne by Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Regional Economic Development Hon Shane Jones, detailed the Government’s plans to help New Zealand’s regions maximise their opportunities to boost local economies.
The Fund aims to enhance economic development opportunities, create sustainable jobs, contribute to community well-being, lift the productivity potential of regions, and help meet New Zealand’s climate change targets.
New Zealand’s regions are significant contributors to the economy but a range of factors including population and technological changes mean some have struggled. While in recent times economic growth has returned to some areas, this has been uneven and has led to stark discrepancies between sometimes neighbouring regions.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says the country’s economic growth strategy needs to consider the nation as a whole and the Government’s commitment to much greater investment in regions is a welcome step.
“Revitalising the regions, especially those that are not seeing some of the growth others are experiencing, will have benefits not just for those areas but also for the rest of the country,” Mr Cull says.
“National success, and achieving our goals of strong and vibrant communities, relies on realising the full economic potential of all regions.”
Doing this is a complex task that requires a partnership between local and central government, communities and the private sector. The Provincial Growth Fund acknowledges the important role of local communities in deciding where and how to invest, and LGNZ will work with councils to ensure communities get the most from the Fund.
“The approach the Government is taking, with a genuine intent to partner with local agencies, is the right one. To successfully tackle the challenge of regional development we need to involve communities in the decision-making process so that the diversity, assets and attributes of our regions are reflected in the decisions made.”
Mr Cull says New Zealand, like nations throughout the world, faces a period of significant change and uncertainty.
“Ensuring our regions are equipped to meet the challenges ahead is crucial and the Provincial Growth Fund will be a significant tool in achieving this, and we look forward to seeing it roll out over the coming years.”
The growth in freedom camping this summer has brought its negative impacts to a head and Local Government New Zealand has welcomed Tourism Minister Hon Kelvin Davis’ invitation to mayors to discuss the issue this week.
Freedom camping has grown considerably in the last 10 years and continues to be a popular option for visitors and locals. The Minster has invited 22 mayors to meet with him in on 8 March to discuss the key issues facing some communities as a result of this growth and begin working towards solutions for the next summer season.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says steps to minimise the impacts of freedom camping and ensure it remains a good experience for visitors are now urgent. This will require actions from councils and the Government and the talks are welcomed.
“While many freedom campers do respect the communities they visit there are a number of issues that come when there are so many of them,” Mr Cull says. “Councils and communities have been reporting problems as a result of freedom camping including with human waste, littering, overcrowding and access to reserves being blocked by campers.
“We need to make sure New Zealand is meeting the balance between the desire to be an attractive destination and a need to protect the environment and our communities.”
Mr Cull says it is time to modernise the Freedom Camping Act, which gives councils the ability to issue fines to travellers who breach by-laws, to ensure it is fit-for-purpose and effective and encourages a respectful and sustainable camping culture.
Across New Zealand councils have already implemented a range of tools including restricting access, enforcement of bylaws and education, however these measures have been challenged by the sharp growth of freedom camping.
“One of the key issues is changing the behaviour of some campers, and this could be helped by strengthening enforcement. Councils need to be able to enforce by-laws and ensure fines are paid, because at the moment there is nothing to stop those who receive an infringement notice from leaving the country without paying it,” Mr Cull says. “This would go some way towards sending the message that freedom camping comes with certain rules and responsibilities.”
Appropriate infrastructure to support freedom camping, for example toilets and parking, and mechanisms to fund this, is also urgently needed and LGNZ continues to advocate for a long-term, sustainable funding such as a local tourism levy.
It seems that New Zealand is experiencing some form of extreme weather or natural event in increasing frequencies. With climate change set to bring more potential emergencies the time is right to rethink our civil defence systems, Local Government New Zealand says.
A report recommending changes to how emergencies are managed in New Zealand lays a solid foundation for work to improve civil defence systems.
Better Responses to Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies, the report of the Technical Advisory Group which reviewed our civil defence systems, was released in January and makes a number of welcome recommendations, including ensuring adequate funding for civil defence and emergency management and support for local communities experiencing an emergency.
Local government is a key player in civil defence and emergency management and LGNZ’s members made a significant contribution to the review.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says it is pleasing to hear Minister for Civil Defence Hon Kris Faafoi commit to working with all local government stakeholders on developing a fit-for-purpose system.
“Having the strongest possible system to deal with emergencies is crucial and designing this system needs input from many quarters, including local government,” Mr Cull says.
“Councils play an incredibly important role in civil defence but as the report notes there is room for improvement both nationally and locally. Councils and communities are well placed to use their local skills and knowledge to respond to emergencies, but having the resources and right national support in a timely fashion is necessary as large scale emergencies can quickly become overwhelming, especially for smaller centres.”
Recommendations including the establishment of “fly-in teams” and a national emergency management agency to support communities are welcomed by LGNZ, as are recommendations for professional development and training for staff in emergency management roles.
Mr Cull says the collaborative approach to making improvements is the right direction.
“The risks to communities from natural disasters vary across the country and making sure those who deliver emergency management are involved in planning how to respond makes sense,” Mr Cull says.
“We look forward to working with the Minister and other stakeholders on developing the system we need.”
The CouncilMARK™ local government excellence programme has continued in 2018 with two new reports released, taking the total to 18, and a further 12 signed up to participate in the coming months.
So far this year reports have been released for Taupō District Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council, which means assessments for the programme’s Foundation Councils are now complete.
Taupō received a BBB rating and Greater Wellington an AA.
The reports are designed to give councils and communities an informed and independent view on how they are carrying out their role, including on where they are excelling and areas for improvement.
Reports and more information on CouncilMARK™ can be found here.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says the release of the first two reports for 2018 is another milestone for the programme and will be followed by further reports as they are completed throughout the year.
“I congratulate all councils that have been through the programme for getting involved and taking the lead to show and grow the value of local government in New Zealand,” Mr Cull says. “I am pleased to see another 11 councils have registered their interest to participate in the programme this year.”
Mr Cull says CouncilMARK™ is the gold standard assessment system for councils and communities, designed to achieve measurable change over time. Councils that have gone through the programme often report they gain as much benefit from the process as from the resulting report.
“Local government is committed to providing the best possible outcomes for our communities and doing this requires the sector to focus on delivering best performance and value for communities. In light of this LGNZ’s National Council strongly encourages all councils to put themselves forward to be assessed by 2020,” he says.
LGNZ Conference, 15-17 July 2018 – registrations open
Hosted in Christchurch, the 2018 LGNZ Conference will take place in the heart of Christchurch’s arts precinct, held in the auditorium and historical buildings in and around Christ’s College from Sunday 15 July to Tuesday 17 July 2018.
We have an exciting programme of speakers and are looking forward to hosting another successful event.
Conference registration is now open. Register before 25 May and go in the draw to win a UEBoom wireless speaker.
Climate Change Project
Climate change is the major, overarching issue for New Zealand and our work in this space continues to progress. Local government has roles to play in in both adaptation and mitigation efforts and our current work includes development of a natural hazards decision making legal “toolkit” for councils and building a more comprehensive picture of local government assets and infrastructure at risk from impacts of sea level rise, and quantification of replacement value.
LGNZ’s Water 2050 project focuses on developing sound and workable policy solutions to New Zealand’s water challenges. Water 2050 has workstreams across allocation, quality, infrastructure, cost and funding, and governance.
In the coming months LGNZ will deliver an allocation options paper, a health and environmental water quality policy stocktake and issues paper and a stocktake report on the condition of stormwater and flood control infrastructure across New Zealand.
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