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LGNZ's "0800 Participate" Campaign Launch Speech

Hon Sandra Lee
Local Govt Minister's Speech To Launch LGNZ's "0800 Participate" Campaign

Local Government New Zealand Offices, Level 9, Local Government Building, 114-118 Lambton Quay, Wellington (between the BNZ and Paris restaurant)

I'm pleased to be here today to support the "0800 Participate" campaign.

It is geared to encourage residents and ratepayers to "give it a go", and consider standing for public office in this year's local authority or district health board elections.

My own involvement as a local government representative began in 1983, when I was elected to the Waiheke County Council.

I served as a Waiheke Councillor, and as Chairperson before serving two terms as an Auckland City Councillor. So I am speaking from experience on the need for and value of diversity in local government.

In my view, decisions made by local councils often have more impact on our daily lives than many central government decisions.

Because our communities are so diverse in their make-up, it is important that the different voices within each community are heard on our councils and community boards.

This includes the aged and the young, as well as Maori, Pacific Islanders, the disabled and other groups.

While there has been some increase in the diversity of elected representatives in recent years, there is certainly scope for improvement.

It is my hope that if more of our people stand as candidates, this will lead to a stronger Maori voice on councils. And, more local authorities will develop a greater understanding of issues that affect Maori.

This, in turn, will help develop more effective partnerships between local authorities and iwi, hapu and Maori organisations. And this would allow for transparency of decision-making, and sharper and more effective accountability to Maori communities.

This would also apply to particular sections of the community, as diversity on local authorities is increased.

There are several steps the Labour-Alliance coalition is taking to promote participation in local democracy.

Firstly, the Government is committed to putting the “local” back into local government.

We believe that local government functions best when local democracy and community self-determination are given the greatest possible scope.

We are looking to achieve this through the local government reviews, initiated last year by the Labour-Alliance coalition. Under review are the sector's main empowering legislation—the Local Government Act—as well as the local electoral legislation, and how local authorities derive their income.

These reviews will provide greater powers and increased operating flexibility for councils.

We anticipate that the outcome will be to draw local authorities and their communities closer together through a combination of partnership relations and greater accountability.

This approach should also help to reduce any feelings of distance or remoteness from the process that may have deterred people who would otherwise have come forward to serve their communities.

Another significant part of the review will consider the process by which local authorities determine ward or constituency boundaries, and the number of members to be elected, every three years.

A public consultation document on the review of the Local Government Act is due to be released next month. I urge everyone to study it, and then have your say on the shape of local government in the future.

As Minister of Local Government I can play a part in changing local government legislation to encourage diversity of participation.

However, no system can guarantee diversity without members of the community putting themselves forward.

As one who has been there, I commend to those of you who have not (yet) done so the challenge of being a candidate for a local authority or community board.

Yes, it can be challenging, but I guarantee that if elected, you will find being able to influence the shape of your local community is also very rewarding.

I would therefore encourage every eligible person, who wants to get involved with local government, to "give it a go" by standing for election this year.

ENDS

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