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Frontpage News - September 2020

This month we take a look at the results of the recent LGNZ AGM, including the remit and leadership votes, as well as a brief note from the new LGNZ President and Vice-President.

Greetings from the new LGNZ president and vice president

Kia ora koutou katoa,

It was an honour and a privilege to be elected by our peers to the respective President and Vice-President roles of LGNZ at the recent AGM.

Over the last eight years, LGNZ has been a vital partner in policy conversations at the highest levels of government, providing a key operational and community focussed lens. Likewise, LGNZ has earned a reputation as a strong voice for local government in the media.

This is something we aim to continue - strong advocacy for policies, frameworks and funding that enable local people to have a real say in decisions that affect their lives, and across all four well-beings - social, economic, environmental or cultural.

While the media landscape is constantly changing, we greatly value the effort that journalists, communications staff, commentators and observers put in to help tell the stories of our councils and communities.  A bright, accurate light shining on our sector helps people understand the importance of strong local democracy.

The experience both of us have in dealing with a wide raft of issues, across different types of councils and demographics, will serve to guide LGNZ and the sector over the next three years. 

Part of our work will be in engaging with the media, talking to the issues we see, and showing New Zealanders that there is another way - one that puts the power back in their hands, and which enables them to gain the best possible outcomes for them and their local communities.

That better way forward will soon be released in the form of the LGNZ election manifesto and the findings from public feedback on our Localism Discussion Paper, "Reinvigorating Local Democracy." 

Until then, please enjoy some of the work LGNZ and councils have been undertaking in this issue of Frontpage News.

Naku noa, na, 

Stuart Crosby
LGNZ President

Hamish McDouall
LGNZ Vice-President

Local government elects new president

Local Government New Zealand’s (LGNZ) member councils have elected Stuart Crosby as LGNZ President, replacing Dave Cull who steps down from the role.

LGNZ is the peak body representing New Zealand’s 78 councils, providing a unified voice for the sector and a pathway for continuous improvement through CouncilMARK™.

Stuart is currently a councillor at Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and previously served as LGNZ vice-president over the last three year term, and served as mayor of Tauranga City for four terms, between 2004 and 2016.

An elected representative at various levels since 1986, Stuart has a background in electrical contracting and the building industry, having spent 20 years as owner of an electrical services company, and is an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

“It is an honour to have been elected by my peers as LGNZ president.  I am looking forward to applying my experience as a mayor, regional councillor and vice-president to this national leadership role in order to address the challenges of our communities across our country,” said Mr Crosby.

“Strong local government and local democracy are hugely important for the success of every New Zealander.”

“My aims as president are twofold; to drive sector excellence, and to advocate for legislation and policy that enables every community to stand on their own feet and succeed.”

Stuart is joined by Hamish McDouall, who has been elected as vice-president of LGNZ.  Hamish is the Mayor of Whanganui District Council and a member of LGNZ’s National Council.

“It is an absolute privilege to be elected as vice-president under Stuart,” said Hamish.

“I’m looking forward to working hard for the sector and every community in New Zealand to enable the best outcomes for them.”  

Departing LGNZ President Dave Cull said: “I congratulate Stuart on his election to the post of LGNZ president.  It is a role I have had the privilege to hold for the past three years, which has allowed me to represent the interests of New Zealand’s diverse communities at the highest political levels.

“That work has only been possible because of the support Stuart has lent me as LGNZ’s vice president, and I can think of no one more qualified to advocate for the right of ordinary New Zealanders to have a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives.”

New remits direct LGNZ advocacy

Local Government New Zealand’s (LGNZ) member councils have passed 9 remits to direct LGNZ’s policy advocacy.

LGNZ is the peak body representing New Zealand’s 78 local councils, providing a unified voice for the sector and a pathway for continuous improvement through CouncilMARK™.

A brief summary of each remit, and the voting results, can be found below:

Public transport support

Proposed by Greater Wellington Regional Council, the remit calls for LGNZ to advocate that the Government work with councils to maintain the financial viability of public transport during the recovery phase of Covid-19.

The remit was passed with 99 per cent support of the sector.

Housing affordability

Proposed by Hamilton City Council and Christchurch City Council, the remit calls for LGNZ to advocate for the Government to assist councils in delivering affordable housing through introduce legislation that would fully enable councils to address housing affordability in their communities through a range of value uplift and capture tools, establishing a working group on affordable housing, and developing an affordable housing National Policy Statement.

The remit was passed with 85 per cent support of the sector.

Returning GST on rates

Proposed by Hamilton City Council and New Plymouth District Council, the remit calls for LGNZ to advocate for the Government to use the appropriate mechanisms to enable the 15 per cent Goods and Services

Tax (GST) charged on rates be returned to councils to spend on local or regional infrastructure projects.

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

Natural hazards and climate change adaptation

Proposed by Hauraki District Council, the remit calls for LGNZ to advocate for the Government to undertake, in collaboration with all of local government, a comprehensive review of the current law relating to natural hazards and climate change adaptation along New Zealand's coastlines, and coordinates the development of a coastline strategy for the whole of New Zealand.

The remit was passed with 98 per cent support of the sector.

Annual regional balance of transfers

Proposed by New Plymouth District Council, the remit calls for LGNZ to work with Treasury, Statistics New Zealand and other government agencies to develop an annual regional balance of transfers to show how much each region contributes in taxes and how much each region receives in government funding.

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

 Local Government Electoral cycle

Proposed by Northland Regional Council, Rotorua Lakes Council, Whanganui District Council and Hamilton City Council, the remit calls for LGNZ to advocate for central government to conduct a referendum on a proposal that the electoral terms of both central and local government be extended from three to four years.

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

 Water bottling

Proposed by Queenstown Lakes-District Council, the remit contains four parts, and calls for LGNZ to work with the Government to:

  • Place a moratorium on applications to take and/or use water for water bottling or bulk export.

The remit was passed with 76 per cent support of the sector.

  • Enable regional councils and unitary authorities to review inactive water bottling consents, with a view to withdrawal of the consent and discourage consent ‘banking’.

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

  •  Undertake an holistic assessment of the potential effects of the current industry, its future growth and the legislative settings that enable councils to effectively manage those effects.

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

  • Initiate a comprehensive nationwide discussion on the issue of water bottling (within the wider basis of water use) and implement any changes to the legislation and policy settings as required.

The remit was passed with 89 per cent support of the sector.

Quorum when attending local authority meetings

Proposed by Waikato District Council, the remit calls for LGNZ to advocate for an amendment of legislation

to enable elected or appointed members, connecting remotely to a public council meeting, be included in the quorum. This would provide an option for local authority meetings to be held completely remotely, if required.

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

Use of macrons by local authorities

Proposed by Waipa District Council, the remit calls for LGNZ to put in place a simplified process for the addition of macrons to council names, if requested by that council or its community.

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

Rates rebates for low income property owners 

Proposed by Whanganui District Council, the remit calls for LGNZ to work with Government to lift the level of rates rebates available for low and fixed income property owners – with yearly increases taking into account the cost for inputs into local government services.

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

Case studies highlight need for speed on climate change adaptation

Local Government New Zealand’s new report on three communities’ fight against the impacts of climate change illustrates how challenging it is for councils grapple with the issue of adaptation without the policy tools and national guidance they need to do the job.

LGNZ is the peak body representing New Zealand’s 78 local councils, providing a unified voice for the sector and a pathway for continuous improvement through CouncilMARK™.

The case studies focus on three areas affected by climate change; the Ruawai Flats of Kaipara, South New Brighton and Southshore in Christchurch, and South Dunedin.  Although all three case studies focus on the issue of coastal inundation, each of the three communities and their respective councils are at different stages of their climate change adaptation planning.

Councils typically work within tight policy frameworks provided by central government.  However, on the national issue of climate change adaptation, they are working in a policy vacuum, leaving each community to pave its own way in dealing with a national issue.

“We acknowledge the Government's leadership on climate change mitigation, but as a nation we can’t pat ourselves on the back and say ‘job done’,” said former LGNZ President Dave Cull.  “We need to urgently address the lack of adaptation policy if we are to make communities more resilient to the risks we know are already baked into the system, whether they’re sea level rise, increased flood risk and storm events, or droughts in the summer.”

“Our case studies show that without clear direction from central government, and the policy tools and funding to match, councils and communities will be mired in litigation, uncertainty and greatly increased costs.” 

The release of the case studies come less than a week after central government released, its National Climate Change Risk Assessment, which lists the environmental, social and economic risks New Zealand faces as a consequence of climate change. 

However, it does not provide any policy direction, which will be developed through the National Adaptation Plan process over the next two years.  Only once this is complete will central government begin to consider its policy options and set a legislative timeline.

Mr Cull says that under the current plan councils and their communities will have to wait at least five years before any help comes, which he said was “too slow given the problem is on the doorstep already and getting worse with every delay”.

Over the last year huge swathes of New Zealand’s public, as well as respected commentators and observers, have called for action on climate change.  Even with this broad consensus, at a national level the legislation needed to guide decision-making and resolution is lacking.

“There have been strong signals from the public at a national level that they want to see action, but at the same time, very little sign from central government on guidelines and support.  We’ve had the Coastal Hazard Guidelines for a few years now, and more recently the first National Climate Change Risk Assessment providing a very high level view of the most pressing risks, but the situations faced by councils and communities go a long way past these documents.”

“Councils are in a damned if they do, damned if they don’t situation as it stands.  Jack Hodder QC found in his recent legal advice to the local government sector that councils are as much at risk of litigation for the work they do undertake, as for what they don’t do.”

“Setting precedents on climate change adaptation through litigation would be an extremely expensive, divisive way to sort things out – I think it’s in everyone’s interests that central government lead with well-researched policy to set out the roles and responsibilities, funding, and expectations.” 

The case studies conclude with a number of recommendations that would assist central government with closing the gulf between the concerns of communities and councils, and their policy. 

“What’s needed is a clear policy framework for climate change adaptation that provides clarity around engagement and roles and responsibilities, a central government team of technical and engagement experts, and resourcing for both councils and community groups to assist with their adaptation initiatives,” concluded Mr Cull.

The case studies can be found at www.lgnz.co.nz.

Ongoing improvement nets council second standout CouncilMARK™ rating

Heading into their second CouncilMARK™ assessment, Waimakariri District Council were confident they could retain their AA rating, but knew it wouldn’t be easy.

Taking on the findings of their first assessment, over a 24-month period the council has continued to invest its efforts in broad community engagement, strong vision and strategy and efficient delivery of services, showing that councils can consistently deliver high performance for their communities.

Launched in 2017, CouncilMARK™ is led by an Independent Assessment Board (IAB) which provides rigorous, transparent assessment of council performance, as well as a pathway for continuous improvement for the sector.  As an addition to the Programme, CouncilMARK™ has set out to develop case studies which focus on sector best practice, as an opportunity for other councils to learn from each other.

“Waimakariri has been dealt a challenging set of circumstances,” said IAB chair Toby Stevenson.

“The earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 really battered this region. On top of that, they’ve had significant population growth with just over 10,000 people migrating to the region, often from worse affected areas.  So the council have had a big job on their hands in accommodating both the rebuild, and the subsequent growth.”

“It would have been easy to coast after getting a very good first rating, but the council has taken on feedback, and made some small but important changes to further improve the value they offer their communities.”

“This council emphasises the importance of effective governance, and management delivering on strategy, which is a key theme in the success of this council.  It is clearly displayed in the strong and trusting relationship between elected members and senior management.”

The 2017 CouncilMARK™ assessment highlighted community engagement as an area needing improvement.   Acknowledging this, Waimakariri District Council undertook a revised approach to their 2018-2028 Long term Plan, resulting in over 800 submissions.

“Waimakariri District Council has built trust with their community through both online and ‘main street’ public consultations, developed a clear strategy off the back of that, and then delivered on it, while undertaking excellent long-term financial planning.  The community should be pleased overall with what their council are doing,” said Mr Stevenson.

Former LGNZ President Dave Cull praised the council’s second AA rating, and their improved grade in financial decision-making and transparency, from ‘performing well’ in 2017, to ‘stand out’ in 2020.

“They’ve strongly linked their finance and asset management strategies, enabling council to aggressively implement the communities’ vision as set out in the Long Term Plan district plan.” 

“There’s also transparency for ratepayers with their rates calculator.  Being able to find your house, find out what your rates are, and where that money goes, whether on water, sewerage, parks and recreation, roading or environment is really pleasing from a ratepayer perspective.”

“If you look through the 28 CouncilMARK™ ratings delivered so far, you won’t see many AAs, which is a testament to the rigor of the Independent Assessment Board, and the performance of the Waimakariri Council in achieving this rating, not once but twice,” concluded Mr Cull.

Waste funding welcomed, but strategy needed urgently

LGNZ welcomed the Government’s announcement of $124 million for onshore recycling and the expansion of the waste levy, but is calling on the Government to match the money with a strategic waste plan to ensure New Zealanders get the best bang for buck.

Announced in Auckland this morning by Hon Eugenie Sage, Associate Minister for the Environment, the initial $124 million investment represents as much as the entire Waste Minimisation Fund has allocated over the past decade.

In that time, the amount of waste reaching council landfills has increased by 48 per cent, signalling that the investment and incentives for waste reduction and recycling need major attention.

“As a sector, local government commends Minister Sage for the work she has been leading in this space,” said former LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“Our communities have consistently been calling for urgent action on waste and recycling, and this funding now puts real heft behind our nation’s efforts to clean up our own mess.”

“But if we want the biggest bang for buck we need to get strategic in how we use this money.  Simply funding recycling projects in a piecemeal fashion is not going to give us the scale we need to economically process waste and recyclables onshore.”

“That’s why our members have asked LGNZ to advocate for the implementation of the Local Government Waste Management Manifesto, which looks at every aspect of waste and recycling in New Zealand.” 

“There’s a huge amount of waste and recycling knowledge within the sector, and this is a pretty significant chunk of money, which if used right, could be a game changer for many areas dealing with a growing stockpiles of waste and recycling.”

LGNZ disappointed in lack of courage on fireworks

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has expressed disappointment in a recommendation by the Governance and Administration select committee to not change laws governing the private sale and use of fireworks.

LGNZ is the peak body representing New Zealand’s 78 local councils, providing a unified voice for the sector and a pathway for continuous improvement through CouncilMARK™.

Last year a remit was passed at the LGNZ AGM, where the nation’s councils voted for LGNZ to advocate for central government to introduce legislation to ban the sale of fireworks to the general public and end their private use. 

“Every year the majority of councils hear from their communities that the negative impacts of fireworks outweigh the benefits,” said former LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“Whether it’s injuries to children, adults, pets or other animals, or fires and property damage, or even just a plain lack of sleep due to fireworks going off every night, communities are sick of the issues and want to see the laws changed so that they can enjoy fireworks in a controlled manner.”

“We know that fireworks are often enjoyable when done right, so given public displays are much bigger and brighter, we think that a law change banning private use is the right move.” 

LGNZ Chief Executive Malcolm Alexander spoke at the select committee last year, highlighting the need for change.

“The amount of injury and damage just isn’t worth the cost, and that was clearly communicated to the committee by a wide range of submitters, including LGNZ.  It’s disappointing this feedback hasn’t been taken on board, and that we’re going to see more avoidable harm for the foreseeable future.”

Detail on long needed drinking-water regulator welcomed

LGNZ is welcoming the introduction of the Water Services Bill, legislation that will detail the powers of the recently formed drinking water regulator Taumata Arowai.

LGNZ has been calling for clear drinking-water standards, and strong enforcement of those standards since 2015, when LGNZ published the Three Waters position paper, a year before the Havelock North contamination.  That position paper highlighted the need for improved regulatory frameworks and enforcement of the standards.

The Water Services Bill is the third pillar in the Government’s reform programme, which also comprises establishing Taumata Arowai as the regulator, and proposing new multi-regional statutory entities to deliver three waters services.

“In countries around the world, best practice is that a regulator sets clear standards, and strong enforcement action backs those up.  Then it is up to the asset owners and providers to meet those standards, or face enforcement,” said former LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“Unfortunately New Zealand has been a little bit unusual in the fact that we didn’t have clear standards or rigorous enforcement, and that has contributed greatly to a system failure.”

The Government’s own Havelock North contamination review was damning of the previous regulatory system, finding that no formal enforcement action was taken by District Health Boards from when the previous drinking water regime was introduced in 2007, up until 2018.

“LGNZ support the ambitions of the Government to ensure safe drinking-water, and we want to work closely with them to ensure this.  We’re very pleased to see this long needed regulator taking shape.  It will drive real improvement for New Zealand’s drinking water supplies.”

“It’s fair to say that the vast majority of New Zealanders can turn their taps on at any time and be confident that they will get clean, fresh drinking water, but this regulator will work to lift performance in specific areas.”

Similar to some council networks, there are affordability challenges for non-networked supplies in meeting new, higher standards.

“Councils need to dedicate their attention to council owned and operated supplies.  Our preference is that the drinking-water regulator is responsible for assessing non-council water networks in the first instance, while councils work to meet the standards of their own networks.”

Implications for housing and infrastructure growth also need to be fully considered.

“Not all growth can be serviced through connections to the council network.  The Government needs to be clear whether it wants to enable independent non-council networks in the future, or if it seeks to limit growth to where the reticulated council networks are.” 

“This presents a situation where local government could be the last man standing, putting a significant burden on ratepayers, and therefore making councils very cautious when assessing developments that set up their own network.”

“Regardless, Local Government New Zealand is committed to working with the Government on Three Waters Reform, and looking at how we can address these questions and improve affordability of improved three waters infrastructure, that meets higher standards in the future,” concluded Mr Cull.

EQUIP launch new EHUB platform

EQUIP have launched a new free digital online portal to help deliver its products and services to elected members and council staff.

This one-stop-shop will be the digital place that members can go to for tools, training and support. EquiP is focussed on supporting elected members in their roles as governors; whether it’s making a well-considered decision or factoring the four well-beings into planning, right through to creating a culture of courageous governance, and striving to excel in organisational leadership.

EHUB is the digital place that members can go to find a wealth of information to help them do exactly that.

A key component of EHUB will be a membership-based suite of digital products designed to support members. The exciting news is that LGNZ is sponsoring the first year of membership to support its members during a difficult financial year for councils.

LGNZ’s sponsorship means those who sign up will be able to access EquiP’s core professional development digital products at no cost. Through EHUB, EquiP has immediately made freely available the vast majority of its products as part of your new membership, sponsored by LGNZ.

In addition to this, as part of the LGNZ sponsored membership, EquiP will be bringing members fresh, relevant, timely content every month.

To find out more visit www.equiphub.co.nz

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