Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search

 


Local Government Reform – background and misconceptions

Local Government Reform – background and misconceptions


A common misconception about local government in New Zealand is that we are ‘over governed’. In fact the reverse is the case when we compare ourselves to the rest of the developed world.

Another misconception is that bigger is cheaper. There are plenty of examples of the ‘diseconomies of scale’ and Auckland is starting to illustrate a local case of bigger costing more. As organisations grow they add in more and more management layers which inevitably cost more.


Before the 1989 reforms we had around 880 councils, boroughs and boards in New Zealand. A major reshaping saw the number reduced to around 88 and now sitting at 72. This was accompanied by major legislative overhaul which saw 57 Acts and 17 regulations combined into the Resource Management Act. This “integrated management” approach was the legislative basis for the reform. I think we got it about right as opposed to some thinking now that maybe twelve or fifteen councils would be good.


Looking at others can help us but it is what we think at the end of the day that really matters.

The wealthiest people in the world are the Swiss, their population is similar to ours and a chunk of their economy is based on dairy cows. They have around 2,000 councils. France has 32,000 mayors and the average council size in the USA is 9,000 people. Even Sydney, just across the ditch has more than 40 councils making up the city. England and Wales have councils nearly twice our size but as well as the usual services they are also delivering police, education and health. Internationally we have less local government (bigger units) than most other countries.


So what is right for New Zealand?


We have a sparsely populated long narrow country divided by mountains. It is geographically diverse and largely dependent on rural based primary industries.

It is my view that Local Councils play a vital role in supporting their local communities and economy. The infrastructure that enables the economy to function is largely owned and managed by local communities. It is well understood by locals as it has largely been built and maintained by them. The roads and bridges, water supply systems along with liquid and solid waste disposal, flood control, animal control, and up until relatively recent time, electricity networks.


There are a myriad of other functions like sport and recreation facilities, building and environmental controls, local bylaws, cemeteries, in fact forty eight different things for this small council, Opotiki. They all contribute to the proper functioning of a rural town that provides support in a number of ways for our rural economy.


The obvious are the schools, health services and social outlet a local town can provide. Probably more important are the direct services, engineering and mechanical serving and repairs, fuel and tyres, fertilizer, stock feeds and seeds, tools and equipment, transport logistics, labour supply and so on. The labour required to pick and pack our kiwifruit crop here in Opotiki needs to be housed and looked after when it is brought in for six months of the year to do the job.


Small towns and even provincial cities around the world have been struggling to hold their own as people gravitate to larger metropolitan centres for the economic opportunities and cultural stimulation they provide. Provincial decline comes at a cost when it begins to diminish the services required to support rural industries.

Amalgamating smaller councils if there is no cost benefit to ratepayers only hastens the demise of other services they rely on. The leadership, local knowledge and local decision making processes that local councils provide are critical to the ongoing wellbeing of rural and provincial New Zealand.


In my opinion the amalgamation proposals that are currently being considered in parts of the country are unnecessary. In fact they have the potential to make Local Government worse and they will cost ratepayers more in rates.

John Forbes

Ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

 

Werewolf: The Defence Pretence

Last year, the world began spending more money on weapons again, for the first time since 2011... New Zealand belongs to a region – Asia and Oceania – where military spending rose sharply in 2015, by 5.4 per cent. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Not Crying Foul, Argentina

So a couple of guys found to be criminally liable of environmental pollution in Argentina lodge an application with the Overseas Investment Office… in order to buy some prime New Zealand rural land. Seems that their factory back home had carelessly and/or intentionally discharged toxic waste into the Lujan river. Bummer... More>>

ALSO:

Urban & Rural: $303m To Merge And Modernise New Zealand’s Fire Services

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne today announced funding of $303 million over five years to combine urban and rural fire services into one organisation from mid-2017. More>>

ALSO:

High Trust Regime: What Did The PM Tell His Lawyer About Foreign Trusts?

The Government stopped the IRD from reviewing New Zealand foreign trusts shortly after the Prime Minister’s lawyer wrote to the Revenue Minister claiming John Key had promised him the regime would not be changed. More>>

ALSO:

Road Crime: Wicked Campers Vans Classified As Objectionable

The definition of publication includes any "thing that has printed or impressed upon it, or otherwise shown upon it, 1 or more (or a combination of 1 or more) images, representations, signs, statements, or words", The Classification Office has previously classified such 'things' as billboards, t-shirts, and even a drink can. This is the first time the Classification Office has classified a vehicle. More>>

ALSO:

'When New' Repairs: Landmark EQC Settlement

The Earthquake Commission has cut a deal with 98 Canterbury homeowners that affirms the government entity's responsibility to repair earthquake-damaged property to a 'when new' state, as well as covering repairs for undamaged parts of a property and clarifying its position on cash settlement calculations. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Kiwirail’s Latest Stint In The Dogbox

The denigration of Kiwirail continues. The latest review (based on a 2014 assessment) of the options facing the company have enabled Kiwirail to be hung out to dry once again as a liability and burden on the taxpayer. More>>

ALSO:

Royal Society Report: Good Opportunities To Act Now On Climate Change

There are many actions New Zealand can and should take now to reduce the threat of climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy, a report released today by the Royal Society of New Zealand finds... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Regional
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news