Local Government News - Issue 52
Forum is “Partnership in Action’
Local Government New Zealand President Basil Morrison said yesterday's Forum with central government was a true reflection of the partnership principle that this Government is operating under.
“The Forum is partnership in action and not just a talkfest for public relations purposes,” Mr Morrison said. “While an event that coincided with the Forum was the release of the Local Government Act discussion document by the Minister of Local Government (see later article), this should not overshadow the other important issues that were addressed by those present.” The Forum, which is jointly chaired by the Prime Minister and the President of Local Government New Zealand, was the third one since the Government took office and was attended by eight Cabinet Ministers and the National Council of Local Government New Zealand.
Mr Morrison said highlights of the meeting included the Minister for the Environment’s announcement that an additional $2.7 million was being given to “beef up’ the Environment Court. “The local government sector has been requesting more funding for the Court, for some time now, to reduce the backlog which is causing delays and stress to all parties. This move is welcomed by Local Government New Zealand and the sector as a whole.”
The Minister, Hon Marian Hobbs, said the funding would be spread over two years and would bring a new judge to the bench as well as other support to the Court servicing.
The Government also confirmed it is setting up a Ministerial Committee (of six) on the Resource Management Act. While the Government considers the Act is fundamentally sound it is eager to reduce compliance costs and concerns with the Act and its implementation.
Hon Marian Hobbs also confirmed her Ministry is set to continue work with Local Government New Zealand on developing “best practice’ initiatives. These include such things as the “Quality Planning’ website and template for processing of consents.
Another area Mr Morrison was pleased with progress on was the work being done by the Ministry of Transport. “Local Government New Zealand acknowledges the commitment of the Minister, the Hon Mark Gosche, to working with local government - as the major owners of roads in New Zealand and as the guardians of the community’s interest in transport and roading corridors.”
Mr Gosche also expressed his appreciation to Local Government New Zealand for their efforts in assisting his Ministry develop its transport policy. The Minister was able to confirm that he expects to have new legislation on transport into the House before the end of the year. “This will provide some certainty to the sector as to how this Government sees transport and its fit with the new Local Government Act,” said Mr Morrison.
Community development, social cohesion and housing were discussed and a number of joint areas progressed. Local Government New Zealand congratulated the Ministers involved for their willingness to engage councils in collaborative projects. Mr Morrison said these included:
- the Heartland Service Centres (providing one stop face to face access to Government services in rural communities)
- the Stronger Community Action Fund (allowing communities to get funding for their own innovative solutions to their own community problems)
- the Community Renewal with Housing New Zealand (a joint initiative to give communities with motivation and initiative to solve issues that affect them).
“All these are examples of local and central government working together with communities to resolve local issues with local “fixes’. Because they are built from the ground up rather than being imposed from the top down, the solutions have a foundation that is much more likely to succeed.” Mr Morrison said this same perspective was reflected in the work of the Ministry for Economic Development and their “Regional Partnerships’ programme.
Another area where local government and central government agreed to work more collaboratively is in the whole range of issues that “e-government’ embraces. The disparity of the provision of telecommunications services to the rural sector was an area both parties agreed needed a national collaborative approach to find a solution.
Local Government New Zealand did however take the opportunity provided by the Forum to send a message to the Government that there was still work to be done on co-ordination between government departments at the local level. “This is an area communities are still frustrated by and seek some movement on if we are to get the benefits of true partnership activities,” said Mr Morrison.
Review is about 'Clarity - Not Clout'
Local Government New Zealand warmly welcomed the Government’s release of its consultation document “Reviewing the Local Government Act 1974’ and said the review was about clarity - not clout - for the local government sector.
President of Local Government New Zealand, Basil Morrison, said this review was the single most important issue for local government since the reforms of 1989. “The current legislation has been a hugely limiting factor for councils and communities because of its complexity and the piecemeal way it has evolved over the past 27 years. What the sector has been seeking is legislative clarity and we have high expectations that the current review will deliver this.”
“The principle of recognising that communities are different and require flexible approaches to achieve their goals is fundamental to this review and we applaud the more enabling approach that is being promoted.” Other areas Local Government New Zealand emphasise are important that the review deliver on are:
- providing a way for better co-ordination between central and local government
- clarification of the Treaty relationship and role in local government
- a reduction in compliance costs.
Mr Morrison said that local government had welcomed the unique collaborative process of developing the consultation document. “While the final policy proposal remains a central government one, the input of local government in its development exemplifies the “partnership’ that central government sees as being crucial to deliver its own goals and priorities well.”
“However”, said Mr Morrison, “this does not mean that Local Government New Zealand can yet say that all the recommendations outlined will be embraced by the sector fully. We will have to speak to all 86 of our member councils and they, in turn, have to listen to their communities before making a submission on the content of the review document. This process will include discussions around the country as well as being the focus of our national conference in mid-July.” The process of consultation by Local Government New Zealand includes:
- a briefing, following the launch of the Consultation Document, with all Mayors/Chairs/Chief Executives
- four regional hui for local government people interested in Maori issues
- participation in workshops with councils to discuss the proposals
- the national Local Government New Zealand conference from 16-18 July is focused on getting input to a sector response.
Proposals put the 'local' back in local government
Prime Minister Helen Clark and Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee yesterday said that a review of the Local Government Act would allow local authorities to better serve their communities.
Helen Clark and Sandra Lee were speaking at the release of a public consultation document on the review, following the third central government/local government forum at Premier House, Wellington. "The proposals outlined in the document will not amount to a revolution in local government, but they will create the platform for longer-term changes in what local government does, how it goes about these activities, and how citizens can become more involved in making the decisions that affect their everyday lives," Helen Clark said.
Sandra Lee said the government's proposed modern partnership approach to community power-sharing was in sharp contrast to the narrow, prescriptive approach of the present Local Government Act. "The proposal to grant local authorities a 'power of general competence' would give them broad powers to enhance the well-being of their communities. "Generally speaking, both regional councils and territorial authorities would enjoy the same freedoms as corporations. "In addition, local authorities would be encouraged to ensure their activities are managed in sustainable ways through 'triple bottom line' accounting, covering financial results, environmental performance and social progress."
Helen Clark said it was also proposed that council planning processes be broadened to ensure local authorities are explicit about the reasons for being involved in particular activities, and how they contributed to the local authorities' goals and community priorities. "The government is now seeking community input on these important proposals. The consultation document will be discussed at meetings throughout New Zealand, and public submissions close on 30 August. "The government plans to introduce a new Local Government Bill to Parliament by December 2001, and enact it mid-2002.
Local Government Commission Announced
Local Government Minister Hon Sandra Lee yesterday announced the appointment of three new members to the Local Government Commission.
"Grant Kirby has been appointed as Chairperson for a term of four years, and Kerry Marshall and Linda Constable have been appointed as members for the next three years, "Ms Lee said. "The Commission is a quasi-judicial body that has a range of responsibilities including reporting to the Minister on matters relating to local government and considering proposals for changes to local authority boundaries and structures.
"Grant Kirby has a wealth of local government experience and has held a number of senior positions with the Auckland City Council, " the Local Government Minister said. Until recently, Mr Kirby was the Rodney District Council Commissioner, appointed by Sandra Lee in April 2000 to replace the dysfunctional Rodney District Council.
"Kerry Marshall has 16 years experience as an elected member of local authorities including 9 years as Mayor of Tasman District and prior to reorganisation in 1989, Mayor of Richmond Borough. Mr Marshall is also the presiding member of the Lotteries Commission and Chairperson of the Conservation Authority. He is also a former president of Local Government New Zealand.
"Linda Constable is a specialist in resource management law. Ms Constable is Chair of both Orion NZ Limited and Carter Group Limited, and has held previous government appointments, including membership of the Social Advisory Council. She is currently a manager with the Office of Te Runanga O Ngai Tahu in Christchurch.
Towards National Policy: Biodiversity
The development of regulatory measures have a high priority for the Government as part of the implementation of the Biodiversity Strategy.
The Minister for the Environment, the Hon Marian Hobbs, released a document called "Towards a National Policy Statement on Biodiversity" at the central/local government Forum yesterday. This document provides some initial wording for a National Policy Statement on Biodiversity and is now officially available for consideration.
While the local government sector are not necessarily all agreed on the value of having a National Policy Statement, Local Government New Zealand is pleased to receive this draft and will ensure that councils get the chance to have input into deliberations.
The Ministry will take feedback on this draft NPS including via some targeted forums and then it will need to be formally proposed under the Resource Management Act and a statutory process of consultation under a Board of Inquiry will take place.
The NPS is seen as the first of the Government's Vote Biodiversity package of measures to have impact on local government. The second will be the amendments proposed to regional and territorial authority functions under s30 and s31 of the RMA, which provide clarity over the roles of councils in managing biodiversity as part of the planning and regulatory regime.
Thanks to a grant from the Sustainable Management Fund from the Ministry Local Government New Zealand is also about to embark on 'Action Bio-Community' a project that will build the capacity of local government to respond to biodiversity issues.
The project focuses on establishing a group of 'pilot' activities that showcase kiwi practicality, scientific input, empathy and vision. The best of these (after rigorous evaluation) will then become 'best practice' examples for sharing with other parts of the sector and communities. Further announcements soon.
Local Government New Zealand Conference is Elective Surgery - changing the Face of Local Government. The conference is being held from 16-18 July in Wellington.
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