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Anderton Speech: Partnership With Local Government

Hon Jim Anderton
Deputy Prime Minister

Speech Notes

The new partnership between central and local government

Keynote address

International Cities of Tomorrow Forum Dinner

Embargoed 7.15PM Thursday, 9 March 2000

Heritage Hotel, Christchurch

I am very pleased to take this opportunity to speak at the International Cities of Tomorrow Forum Dinner

It is appropriate that a meeting aimed at improving the well-being and quality of life of our citizens should be held here in Christchurch.

The City Council here has a proud record.

It has the highest level of satisfaction among its people of any local authority in the country.

That record alone invited the scorn of the last government. It caused the Business Roundtable to label the city ‘the People’s Republic of Christchurch.’ That label is now worn as a badge of honour.

The thinking behind the Cities of Tomorrow movement rests on the idea that
we can achieve more if we co-operate. We are not just isolated folk competing in the market. There are some things we can do better together.

I would like to quote from Christchurch City’s ‘Community Governance:Resource kit’:

‘Communities are about individuals acknowledging that they have a collective identity, that they may have common interests which separate them from other communities and that they may have a common vision. Implementing that vision requires processes that enable collective action.’

The role of central and local government is to represent the collective, or common, vision of individuals. No one else will look after the collective interests of New Zealanders.

Over recent years a void was created as central government withdrew from the provision of many essential services, including basic necessities such as low-cost housing, through to economic development initiatives aimed at boosting the performance of the economy.

Local government has led the way in providing leadership to fill the void.

The new Labour-Alliance coalition government has ended the era of hands-off. This Government is not going to continue to withdraw from its responsibilities.

Instead we are entering a new era of partnership. We recognise the role that local government can play, and we value it.

You have asked me to speak about the government’s vision for effective partnerships between central and local government and what it might mean in practice in issues to do with children and young people.

If we are serious about a vision for our collective well-being, then the well-being and quality of life of our children and young people is a good place to begin.

There is no higher responsibility than to ensure that every young person has the opportunity to realise their potential. That they are secure, well-fed, free from avoidable illness, and that they have hope.

An environment where young people prosper and thrive is one where there is a sense of place. A future to look forward to. Belonging.

I want to reflect for a moment on New Zealand’s success in achieving a satisfactory quality of life for children and young people.

The Community Governance: Resource kit observes that we do not have good measures relating to environmental sustainability and quality of life. This is in contrast with the number and variety of indicators of financial and economic performance.

We may not have adequate numerical indicators, but we can look at some obvious issues.

Are there high-quality jobs for all those who can work?

Are New Zealanders staying in New Zealand or leaving?

Do people feel safe in their homes?

Is the population healthy?

How well do we treat our most vulnerable citizens?

We can reflect on some simple facts:

The number of young people who take their own lives each year.

The costs of an education.

The difficulty of buying a home.

The decline of communities and loss of services in many parts of New Zealand.

Clearly we are failing when we have the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world.

There is no simple solution to the epidemic of youth suicide. It is the outcome of the environment we have created.

Look at the way young people are paid. They pay market rents for their homes, but they are paid youth rates at work. There are no lower bank charges or hire purchase charges for young people. Cars and petrol to run them are not discounted for young people. But the value of their work is.

While their work is devalued, so is their opportunity to fulfil their potential through education. Young people entering higher education are punished with a lifetime burden of debt.

Unless we can reduce the cost of education, the student debt will -- in about fifteen years – exceed the entire national debt.

What message does that send to young people about the place they have in the community we have created?

What sense of belonging will develop when young people are questioning the double standards in our approach to alcohol, tobacco and drugs?

No one is much more conservative than I am when it comes to drugs. But I understand the frustration and confusion that young people feel when drugs commonly used among the young are criminalised, while use of a drug like alcohol is actively promoted.

The environment we have created permits a sustained, high level of youth unemployment to continue for year after year. Yet we know how destructive of confidence and self-worth unemployment is.

Today there are about two hundred thousand jobless New Zealanders, just as there were two years ago. Yet it will come as a surprise to most people to learn that there are just about enough jobs today for everyone who was jobless then.

And two years ago there were just about enough jobs then for everyone who was unemployed two years before that.

In other words, our economy is clearly capable of generating the jobs that are needed. But the creation of those jobs has been maintained at a level that has produced on-going joblessness. The result has been wide-spread, avoidable misery and social dislocation.

There is no way that young people alone can ever hope to bridge that gap. It’s up to the Government to provide the pro-active economic development policies needed to do it.

This government is setting out to do it in partnership with local government as well as the private sector.

Economic development is a new dimension in Government policy. The objective is to provide increased opportunities for employment and rising incomes for all New Zealanders, no matter where they live.

We’ll do it by broadening the industrial base of the New Zealand economy. We need to produce more of the goods and services that rely on the talent, creativity and innovation of New Zealanders. We can no longer rely solely on our existing base of natural resources.

We need to transform the economy.

No one measure and no one organisation is going to accomplish it alone. Transformation will be the outcome of flexible, partnership relationships.

We need to have an attitude that says: ‘If it works, we’ll do more of it. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something better.’

Local Government has somewhat more experience than central government in the economic development area.

Many local authorities have initiated economic and industry development programmes to attract new productive enterprise, and to foster local initiatives.

The Government needs to co-operate with local authorities taking those initiatives -- and we will.

At the practical level it means the provision of initiatives such as training assistance packages.

We can’t afford to allow young people to languish on the dole, when we could be paying them the same to train and gain skills in the job-rich, high-value industries of the future.

Local government has considerable experience in identifying local opportunities to match the resources of central government with the initiative of local enterprise.

In a partnership relationship, central government will be alert to issues at the local level, and it has to be prepared to respond.

For example, when we are warned that young people are leaving New Zealand by the thousands in search of the bright lights and cultural stimulation of other countries: We have to be prepared to foster and support the growth of our own cultural identity. Uniquely New Zealand culture, physical environment and values are only to be found here. It’s no wonder New Zealanders cut their ties to home when our culture is swamped by overseas voices and styles.

When we are warned that young people are leaving the regions by the thousand to find work, or to enter tertiary education: We need to examine the opportunities to expand the regional presence of tertiary centres, like Polytechs. We need to ensure we are putting together regional development packages that develop new industries in the regions, instead of leaving those regions to be crushed by the market.

The government’s regional development initiatives recognise that we need strong regions to have a strong national economy.

The importance of the Cities of Tomorrow approach is that it looks beyond questions of service delivery, to questions of outcomes: What do we want to be like?

The partnership approach to New Zealand’s economic development is also concerned with outcomes. It is a process of working together flexibly to provide not only the economy, but also the quality of life we aspire to.

In 1969, Norman Kirk wrote a book called Towards Nationhood, where he said:

“Let us have a sense of pride in being New Zealanders. Let us recognise the value of the unique way of life we have built here – a humane, non-violent society, free from the social and economic injustices that plague so many societies.”

It’s in co-operating in partnership to achieve that vision, that central and local government can make the greatest contribution to the quality of life of our young people.


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