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Labour Local Government Policy


Labour Local Government Policy

Labour is committed to a close and collaborative working relationship with local government. We believe that local decisions are best made locally and that the legislation we have passed enables local government to provide strong local leadership. Our Labour-led government overhauled the Local Government Act in 2002, the first major revamp of the Act in 25 years. The new legislation ensures that local government is empowered to meet the needs of its communities, and that those communities are given the opportunity to have a say on major decisions. Labour will continue to work closely with local government for the benefit of all our communities.

LABOUR’S PRIORITIES Effective Working Relationships Labour has:

• Established a strong partnership with local government through the Central-Local Government Forum. • Promoted a positive working relationship between central government and Local Government New Zealand through working parties on the Local Government Bill, the Local Government (Rating) Act, the development of transport policy, the development of the New Zealand Waste Strategy, and many other issues. • Entered into partnerships with local authorities on a range of projects including local and regional economic development. We are committed to involving local government at an early stage in policy development, and being open to submissions and suggestions from local government on how policy can be improved.

Labour will:

• Continue to hold forums jointly chaired by the Prime Minister and the President of Local Government New Zealand twice a year to identify key issues of significance to local and central government, agree on priorities for addressing those issues, and monitor progress towards their resolution. • Ensure government, and its departments and agencies, both nationally and locally, closely collaborate with local government in working to meet the needs of communities - as we did in addressing issues such as water quality in the Taupo and Rotorua lakes, the sale of council housing in Auckland, or damage caused by significant flood events in the lower North Island and the eastern Bay of Plenty. • Work closely with local government across all areas of policy development, and in particular on initiatives relating to core infrastructure, crime prevention, and safer community initiatives.

Forward. Together 1 Local Government Environmental Sustainability

New Zealand has a devolved system of environmental decision-making. Labour recognises that it is vital for good environmental decision-making that councils have the necessary resources and expertise to carry out their functions. Labour instigated a review of the Resource Management Act in 2004 to further improve the working of the Act. This resulted in the passing of the Resource Management Amendment (No. 5) Act in August 2005. Labour is committed to ensuring that the changes brought about are put into operational practice. The key areas that Labour will be targeting are: • Improving the quality and timeliness of local decision-making. • Assisting councils, or providing alternative hearing processes, for cross-boundary and very complex consent processes. • Providing New Zealand-wide consistency in planning and environmental standards, so as to reduce compliance costs and ensure that standards are applied uniformly. Labour will also support local authorities to carry out their RMA functions by: • Supporting training and professional development programmes for council staff and decision makers involved with processing resource consent applications and writing plans. • Maintaining the Quality Planning Website and facilitating the sharing of best practice information between local authorities. • Developing more national policy statements and national environmental standards. • Continuing to fund the Resource Management Act Education and Advisory Service and the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund. • Continuing to improve turn around times for Environment Court applications by eliminating unnecessary delays.

Legislation

The Labour-led government recognised the need to address a number of legislative issues and has worked alongside local government to ensure legislation is modernised, streamlined and is not overly prescriptive. We have worked hard to strengthen local government and improve local democracy.

Labour has:

• Reformed the local electoral system with the enactment of the Local Electoral Act 2001. • Passed the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002. • Passed the Local Government Act 2002, the first major overhaul of the Local Government Act in 25 years. It details a coherent overall strategy for local government and a more broadly empowering legislative framework under which local authorities can meet the needs of their communities.

Forward. Together 2 Local Government

• Passed the Dog Control Amendment Act 2003 providing better protection for the public from dangerous dogs.

Labour will:

• Monitor the effectiveness of the new local government legislation and address any issues that arise. • Review the Local Government Act in 2007, as required by the Act, and consider any need for further fine-tuning of it. • Work with local authorities and Local Government New Zealand to ensure that nationwide policies, such as the New Zealand Disability Strategy, the Waste Strategy, National Policy Statements and National Environmental Standards, are effectively and appropriately implemented at local government level.

Commitment to Local Democracy

The Local Government Act 2002 was passed with strong support from local government to empower the sector to govern in the best interests of local communities. We are committed to strengthening local government so that it is an effective part of New Zealand’s system of democratic government.

Labour will:

• Carefully consider recommendations arising from the Select Committee inquiry into the 2004 local authority elections and take necessary action to improve the election processes. • Promote awareness and encouragement of participation in local authority elections. • Continue to develop a web-based evaluation of local government activities to better inform ratepayers.

Provision of Essential Services

High quality water supplies are essential to public health, as are efficient sewerage systems in all built-up areas. Labour has invested in essential services, offering funding that would otherwise have had to come from rates or water charges.

Labour has:

• Established the Sanitary Works Subsidy Scheme, which made $150m over ten years available to local communities for upgrading their sewerage systems. • Established a $136.9 million Drinking Water Subsidy Fund to help improve drinking water in New Zealand communities. This Fund will assist councils and other water suppliers with technical advice and direct capital assistance for upgrading water systems.

Labour will also:

• Raise the subsidy levels for projects to upgrade sewage treatment and disposal systems in small, rural communities with high levels of deprivation to up to ninety per

Forward. Together 3 Local Government

cent of the costs of the project. From a review earlier this year, we estimate that rather more than eighty small communities with high deprivation levels around New Zealand will be able to benefit from the increased subsidy rate.

Funding of Local Government

Rating levels are set by local government, which is accountable to its communities for their decisions. Labour has enhanced this accountability. Stronger requirements have been introduced for councils to consult with their communities on how the services they intend to provide will be funded. Labour believes in local democracy and does not intend intervening in local decision-making on rate levels. When central government requires local authorities to carry out certain mandatory functions such as dog control and building controls, they are provided with appropriate powers to recover the cost of their involvement in these activities. Nevertheless, the impact of new or altered regulatory responsibilities is vigorously debated by councils and has been for many years. The strength of the relationship between central and local government today has enabled sensible discussions to begin about these issues.

Labour will:

• Continue to work with local government to identify the extent of any regulatory impacts, and the need for further measures to mitigate them. Labour has also made significant funding decisions with positive implications for local authority funding including: • A significant increase in central government's investment in land transport, across road and rail, and public transport. In 1999/00, the funding available through the National Land Transport Fund was $930 million. In 2005/06, the funding available through the National Land Transport Fund is over eighty per cent higher at $1.7 billion. • Ensured transport infrastructure deficits in other parts of the country are addressed by special packages in the Auckland, Wellington and Bay of Plenty regions. • An implementation programme for the Building Act of $4.3m in 2004/05, and $4.9m in 2005/06. • A $9.8 million Tourism Demand Subsidy Scheme to help communities develop infrastructure to cope with and position themselves for rising tourist numbers. • More than $44 million worth of funding for regional economic development through the Regional Partnerships Programme. This includes the establishment of seventeen Major Regional Initiatives in fifteen regions, ranging from Food Hawkes Bay, to the Manawatu Bio Commerce Centre, the Marlborough Aviation Heritage Centre and Park, and the Southland Broadband Initiative. These partnerships between central and local government can make a real and tangible difference for their communities and their potential to flourish.

Labour will: Forward. Together 4 Local Government

• Continue to work alongside local government to complete the local government funding project. This project was established to gather accurate information on local authority rating levels, to assess the affordability of essential infrastructure and services, and to explore supplementary funding options, if required, in partnership with local government. • Introduce an extended rates rebate scheme to assist low-income householders and ensure that the benefits and qualifying levels keep pace with inflation. From July 2006 the maximum rebate will increase from $200 to $500 per annum and income eligibility thresholds increase from $7,400 to $20,000.

Urban Design and Heritage Protection

Labour will continue to promote initiatives to enhance urban design and the quality of the built environment both regionally and locally.

Labour will:

• Support the implementation of the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol by: o Developing supporting resource material. o Working with local government, professional bodies and the private sector to ensure each make tangible commitments under the Protocol and provide information showing what they have achieved. o Developing an Urban Affairs Statement of Strategic Priorities and work with local authorities, professional bodies and the private sector to implement a package of measures to improve integrated urban management in New Zealand. • Investigate and implement world best practice models for securing the retention of historic buildings and other structures, including early action to identify them, resources to protect them, funding to maintain them and appropriate valuation of them • Complete a review of the Public Works Act and enact an improved Act.

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