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Bill welcome but casting vote position disappoints

Local government bill welcome but casting vote position disappointing, says Local Government New Zealand

The latest local government reform bill has been welcomed by Local Government New Zealand’s President Basil Morrison, but he is disappointed the Government’s policy on casting votes does not take into account the best interests of councils.

“We welcome the introduction of the Local Government Reform (No.3) Bill into Parliament. It contains some badly needed technical amendments to six pieces of local government legislation, providing more certainty and clarity for local authorities.

“Councils will particularly welcome the clarification of the interface between the Local Government Act and other legislation including the Resource Management Act. They will also be pleased that there is no prohibition on candidacy for both mayor and ward councillor. This signal from the Government will give candidates more certainty about standing in this year’s local elections and we share the Government’s wishes to have this bill enacted by June in time for the nominations.”

“However, we are disappointed with the Government’s stance on casting votes. The bill specifies the casting vote cannot be provided for in standing orders. Local Government New Zealand believes that it is in the best interest of councils to have the provision for a casting vote in the standing orders, whether they choose to use it or not.

“The provision for a casting vote has historically been available to mayors, regional council chairs or committee chairs, if they wish to use it. The casting vote is only used in exceptional circumstances and when a significant vote has to be taken within a certain deadline, such as approving an annual plan or budget.

“Unlike nationally elected politicians, local government councils do not have resort to a by-election to resolve irreconcilable differences between members in the case of a split vote. The need for continuity and the obligation on local councillors to get on with business, directly representing the interests of ratepayers, is ongoing.”

“We will be suggesting to Government that it make the casting vote a choice for councils, rather than banning it altogether”, says Mr Morrison.

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