Kāpiti will mourn Govt’s interference in Local democracyEditorial 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
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.