LGNZ Media Briefing: Houses, Campers and CopsRobert Kelly
At their quarterly media briefing today Local Government New Zealand addressed areas where local authorities are feeling pressure and outlined their approach for the upcoming local body elections in September-October.
Hastings District Council Mayor and LGNZ President Lawrence Yule said the provision of adequate housing is a major concern for his organisation. Yule told media local and central government needed to work together to find better solutions. He said councils not being recognised as community housing providers raised numerous problems. Factors in the shortage of new housing included the price of building materials and a skill shortage in the construction industry. Mr Yule added that there is a lot of land available but freeing it up for housing is taking too long.
Yule and LGNZ Chief Executive Malcom Alexander said they had received concerns from eighteen councils about the level of community policing currently available. Mr Yule said the resourcing of community policing was not increasing and the gaps were being filled by local authorities through CCTV camera networks and “other security initiatives". Yule said he is concerned to see councils having to use ratepayer money to plug the gaps left by police restructuring and a conversation needed to happen with central government about this issue. A remit will be taken to LGNZ’s annual conference in July, asking it to advocate for an increase in community policing resources.
A constant bugbear for councils in New Zealand has been expenses caused by increasing tourism so it was no surprise to see this addressed again, with some exasperation. The Regional Mid-Sized Tourism Facilities Fund, twelve million dollars over the next four years, was seen as a starting point for central government investment. Alexander went on to say that this only paid for "six toilet blocks” a year and the major costs being inherited by councils were in “waste water management”. Yule said that a change of tack is required so “we don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs” by not resourcing rising tourist numbers appropriately.
Yule and Alexander also talked about the impact of freedom campers on councils, particularly those in non-self-contained vehicles. Alexander stressed that these made up only twenty percent of freedom campers but said their impact needs to be addressed. There is no national rule regarding freedom camping and councils find it hard to enforce by-laws and infringement notices. Mr Yule said that if there is going to be an enforcement regime there needs to be a comprehensive way to administer it.
Local Government New Zealand is aiming to increase voter participation to above fifty percent in this year’s local body elections. Yule said it was an ambitious goal but he was confident turnout could be lifted. He also said the turnout in the Auckland Council election would have an impact on that statistic because of the size of the population.
Sophie Boot's BusinessDesk coverage of the Local Government Funding Agency report can be found here: Auckland Council nears borrowing cap via LGFA