Councils Under Siege

KCDC activities will be slashed as Government hits local body activities

By Alan Tristram

Government plans to restructure local government yet again will have a huge effect on the Kapiti Coast community.

The far-reaching plans have just been announced by Local Government Minister Nick Smith.

Although local Government Minister Nick Smith says he wants to cut rate rises and council debt, he will also be emasculating many local council functions in the biggest shake-up of local councils for many years.


The Kapiti Long-Term Council Community Plan –- which has involved many thousands of hours of public and KCDC officials’ time – looks likely to be thrown out the window as councils are told to concentrate on ‘core’ activities.

The core activities cover roads, water, sewerage, storm-water services and, luckily, public libraries.

‘Right-wing agenda’

It’s a right-wing agenda and much spending on social, cultural and environmental activities will be slashed.

Councils will only be allowed to increase spending in line with inflation and population growth, under the proposed changes to the Local Government Act,2002.

The plan will also allow local bodies to merge more easily.

Mr Smith says the “Better Local Government” plan will ‘provide clarity around the role of councils, stronger governance, improved efficiency and more responsible financial management.’

The plan includes eight specific initiatives – four of which are to be introduced to Parliament in May and should be passed in September.

Dr Smith says the first four points would refocus the purpose of local government, introduce fiscal responsibility requirements, strengthen council governance provisions and streamline council reorganisation procedures.

Dr Smith has previously raised concern about ongoing rate increases, which he said had risen on average by 7 per cent each year since 2002.

“The reforms will help keep rates affordable and debt at prudent levels by focusing councils on their core roles, setting clear fiscal responsibility requirements and giving councils more tools to better manage costs.”

The remaining reforms would include a local government efficiency task force, a framework around local and central government regulatory roles, an investigation into efficient infrastructure provision and review of development contributions, and would be undertaken in consultation with Local Government New Zealand.


Anther blow for democracy. They don’t trust us to elect a council which will work in accord with our values. Central government knows best what we need locally? I don’t think so!

Just to be on record again, and for the ‘I told ya so’
The government will be lucky to be able to answer the phone inside of 5 years, let alone run New Zealand from a central location, and with over 80% unemployment the councils will be broke, if not non-existent.
Don’t believe any long term plane, they are all made while watching the rear view mirror.
Regarding create your own currency D, we will have to go through the cadaver economy (cannibalism) or something as bad, to make this idiot public wakeup enough to learn anything that different. It has to get a whole lot worse yet.
But lets keep voting, it has worked so well for so long lol

Democracy is being whittled away in front of our eyes. Power is being centralised. Local bodies are far more responsive to our requests than central government. Many aspects of local body work which give quality to our lives will disappear. For example who will create all the wonderful walkways, cycleways and natural open spaces we enjoy?

This takes some understanding! Thank you to Betty for giving a better view on the wider implications, rather different to the glib sentences of the ministers piece.
It all looks as though my money will be spent by central government( including on consultants?) instead of where I can have a direct influence,locally.
We have all got the message that rates must be kept to or below inflation in future, including our council. What I don’t want to see is all the careful work done to improve our district these past years lost by neglect or interference. We can all see and feel how we have turned from sleepy hollow to an attractive more vibrant area, with the council building on and enhancing the assets that residents value.
Let us keep it local!

How the reforms suggested will keep rates affordable and get debt levels down is not tackled practically in the statement from the Minister. Rebalancing the changes in 2002 is a small step which could remove the ‘Wellbeings’ from Council responsibilities.
Only 3% of the current rates are spent on ‘Wellbeing’ most of that on improving facilities and activities for people in the Kapiti community. This includes helping with grants: safer communities, Youth, Health organisations, sporting clubs; as well as cultural, environment, heritage, and social activities.

Several other things have helped to increase rates over the years such as: new or replacement infrastructure; Public transport costs charged to ratepayers; new regulatory roles such as new gambling legislation; water,building and dog control legislation; increased consultation costs;inflation % to be added to rates total, increased GST (tax on a tax) and depreciation.
There are 8 specific initiatives included in the Better Local Government Reforms with four being introduced into Parliament in May. They are:
Introduce fiscal responsibility requirements, strengthen council governance; and streamline council reorganisation procedures. The 4 th is of importance to ratepayers.. How will this be done? and what reorganisation procedures are being streamlined? Are we to be amalgamated with another local authority with little consultation?

The other 4 initiatives include a local government efficiency taskforce. Will ratepayers pay for this? Then there are comments about the Productivity Commission’s investigation on regulatory roles, and Auditor General inquiries into Development Contribution.

Recently hours of work have into preparing the Long Term Plan in a series of workshops; I was one of the three members of the public present. Two of us from Kapiti Grey Power, and the Chairperson of the Older Persons Council.
The Long Term Plan will be released for consultaton soon. The first legislation change will be in September long after rates have neen set. So don’t hold your breath for drop in rates this year.

Betty van Gaalen.

Hi Alan. Disappointed you did not put my comments up. I think it is about time people started to focus on some of the positives that this council has done and the courage that it has taken to make decisions like the aquatic centre and the civic centre. These would not happen under the new model, and Kapiti would have been the worse for it. I suppose though that most people do not take the strategic view but only worry about today and not tomorrow.


neglecting the negatives is jeopordising the future, how will a state of denial achieve anything with integrity in the future ? If the KCDC are doing negative things then get real !, stop talking rubbish !

Isn’t it great that your current Council had the balls to get on with the Aquatic Centre and the Civic building because Kapiti would never get these assets under what is proposed here. I hope some of the doomsayers at least try and recognise the strategic intent behind these two investments, but somehow I doubt it.

right from the start, KCDC guaranteed the aquatic centre would not be council funded. the only balls this council has is in acting like dictators to its community.

A couple of years ago a decade of KCDC work on roading was swept aside with plans for a government
motorway. Now KCDC’s Long-Term Community Plan is to be mothballed by cutting local council spending on
social, cultural and environment projects. May the future be better than the government would lead us to believe
the past has been! There have got to be easier ways to manage a region of 50,000 people than carve it with
a motorway and centralise its activities.

Thanks for that perspective Graham, I wasn’t going to be swayed by Nick Smith but Ceilia’s positive approach was a little confusing. I better stick to the school books and stay away from the part time politics, can’t believe I wrote Alan was spinning the news, keep up the good work.

They are not concerned with managing a community of 50,000 with a motorway, they are concerned with bypassing the community, this is why the kcdc contracted company was asked to hide / cover up the social impact study they were commissioned to do, and this is the same information we are STILL waiting for under the FOIM request that has been lodged.
Our sources report it was the “most damming social impact assessment ” they had seen.
I would suggest – Trust No One.

One major response of local government to this drastic measure (really aimed to centralise power and give more power to corporates) is for local authorities to create their own currencies. I am taking a workshop on this topic at the Permaculture Australasia Convergence in Turangi 11-15th. If local authorities issued Rates Vouchers and then made it so they had a circulation incentives designed to have them circulating faster than the national currency, it would revive local economies, create jobs, give confidence to local businesses and move toward sustainability. Local money is only accepted for local goods and services so can’t be used to pay for fossil fuel based items. It would do wonder for green businesses.