Big Isn’t Beautiful

Photo by PhillipC

Kāpiti will mourn Govt’s interference in Local democracy

Editorial by Alan Tristram
 
The National Government is forcing through untested changes in the way our local government works.
 
I personally feel this could undo a lot of the good that has been done on the Coast — and, in particular could destroy our valuable Community Boards.
 
Instead of ‘Small is Beautiful,’ which we know works, they are forcing through ‘Big is Best’ projects which could devastate our community — the Kapiti Expressway is an example of this.
 
Now they are moving in on our local institutions.
 
Kāpiti’s Mayor, Jenny Rowan, has penned a telling article on this. And, with her permission, we reprint it here.
 
A sad day for Local Government
‘Clear support for macron’

Jenny Rowan writes: ‘The Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill 2012 narrowly passed through Parliament last Thursday signalling the first phase of the Government’s programme for local government reform.

Working on the principle that change should improve things, it’s hard to be positive about this so-called reform package, which still appears to be a triumph of ‘Think-Big’ ideology over substance.

When Minister Carter tells us that the bill aims to lift the performance and efficiency of local government it’s difficult for many in local government not to feel both insulted and condescended to.

Given Novapay, on-going debarcles with ACC privacy breaches, and the shambles around South Island School amalgamations, it’s hard to see the government as a great role model in either performance or efficiency.

With 78 local authorities managing $120 billion worth of assets and spending $7.8 billion of public money annually, there are bound to be problems in our sector from time to time. However the majority of New Zealand local government is focused, well managed and subject to a great deal more rigor than is central government.

The Select Committee received more than 500 submissions on this bill from individuals, organisations, and local authorities, including ours. Few were really listened to.

Mr Carter says he was disappointed that Opposition Members on the Committee turned down an offer to work constructively on this Bill. Perhaps it was deeply divided for a good reason i.e. it was poorly conceived, lacked support in the local government sector and will do little to drive change or improve things.

The fact that the Bill returned to the house largely unchanged, probably says more about it being an inherently bad piece of legislation than it does about the Committee’s ability to work together.

Mr Carter says the intention of the new Bill is not to prescribe what local authorities can and cannot do, but to better define the appropriate scope of their activities and allow communities to decide what activities matter to them, and how much they are willing to pay for them.

This already happens through the Annual Plan, the Long Term Plan, the District Plan and a number of other well-established consultation processes.  But of course, this process runs counter to the Government’s long-term agenda to centralise and corporatize local government reducing its connection to community roots.

 

Quite simply the KCDC has priced itself off the market and has only itself to blame for the mood for change.

The marked lack of ratepayer opposition in Kapiti – and across the entire Greater Wellington region – to the prospect of regional management is itself quite telling. There are no mass marches in the streets!

If anything there is a sense of relief that reality – including an ability to pay – will be brought back to a local government system which in some areas, like Kapiti, has gone beyond the bounds of common sense.

We all know this will be a worse situation, time and time again these stupid mergers etc are to the detriment of the people on the ground, and as always political agendas are bigger than common sense !

There is a telling error in the Mayor’s reposte against the Local Govt Reforms when she states “we are starting the process of our own demise”…she is overlooking that council(s) started that process when they failed to listen to what the wider community is wanting/needing. The weight of submissions to the Draft Annual Plans over a number of years have been calling for council to prioritise (which does not mean do all the top 5 expensive projects all in the same year), build the dam as the most important project and live within our means. Continual rates increases at more than double the rate of inflation are not affordable nor acceptable. Then we have numerous issues, such as the expressway, water meters, big ticket buildings, major cost blow-outs, CEO salary increase etc where council has failed to engage with the community, instead bashing us around the head with a “we know best” attitude. It is glorious that the Mayor now complains that Minister Carter makes them feel both “insulted and condescended to.” Welcome to the lives of Kapiti residents!

Methinks the Mayor protesteth too much. Defensive too much. Dogmatic too much. Being a big fish in a little pond must be nice but very hard to relinquish. The end is possibly in sight?

Mr Carter states “the intention of the new Bill is not to prescribe what local authorities can and cannot do, but to better define the appropriate scope of their activities and allow communities to decide what activities matter to them, and how much they are willing to pay for them.”

The Mayor states “This already happens through the Annual Plan, the Long Term Plan, the District Plan and a number of other well-established consultation processes”.

I think the Mayor is stretching things, or at least taking a very liberal view of the meaning of “consultation”. Try “water meters” or the “edifice in memory of the current Mayor and Councillors called “Renovation of Council Chambers” etc. Etcetera being the “extensive consultation that took place prior to the release on LIM’s of the Coastal Hazard Report.

The Mayor suggests the the proposed Amendment Bill “lacked support in the local government sector.” Of course “turkeys never vote for an early Xmas.”

The Mayor acknowledges that we (the council) are starting the process of our own demise.

Congratulations Mr Carter.