Local Government Bill May Increase Costs
April 12, 2002
The Auckland City Council welcomes the long overdue review of the Local Government Act, but is concerned that the proposed Bill may unnecessarily increase costs for ratepayers.
In a presentation to the Local Government and Environment select committee yesterday, the chairman of the Council’s Strategy and Governance Committee, Councillor Mark Donnelly said that while the Council supported the Bill’s approach, some aspects would impose more costs on local bodies and their communities.
During the reform process, some sectors of the community feared that broadened council powers might lead to new council activities, unfairly competing with the private sector.
Councillor Donnelly said that such fears are unwarranted; “the new Bill, actually gives councils very few new powers that they did not have already under the existing law. However, where new powers are given, there are more than enough checks and balances”.
Councillor Donnelly added that the new and extensive consultation requirements in the Bill could actually limit councils’ activities, and they would certainly slow down council decision making.
While the Council welcomed openness and community participation in the decision-making processes contained in the Bill, the new and extensive consultation requirements are a major concern said Councillor Donnelly.
He said the Bill should aim for more effective consultation, not simply for more consultation. In this regard, the Bill’s heavy reliance on a rigid and formal consultation process would slow decision-making and increase councils’ costs for no clear benefit.
“The test of consultation should be the extent to which it involves people and their communities and communicates with them – it is not just about a formal adherence to a legal process,” said Councillor Donnelly.
The consultation procedures proposed in the Bill are based around traditional public notices and take no account of eGovernment and the developing use of electronic means of communication noted Councillor Donnelly.
In the case of the requirements to assess water, wastewater and sanitary services, Cr. Donnelly said that the Bill meant councils would need to greatly extend their activities into monitoring private water supplies and roof tanks, septic tanks and swimming pools. “This is a new mandatory function. It has appeared in the Bill with little consultation with the local government sector and no consultation with the public,” he said.
The new obligation would impose “significant new compliance costs” which would be “especially difficult” for small, geographically dispersed councils, said Councillor Donnelly.
The Bill contains rules aimed at ensuring that water and wastewater services remain in public ownership and Cr. Donnelly said that the council supported these objectives.