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Note To Brash: Cooperation Not Bullying The Key

Note to Brash: Cooperation not bullying key to working with local overnment

A strong cooperative working relationship between central and local government is key to ensuring benefits for local communities and ratepayers, Local Government Minister Mark Burton said today.

The comments follow a speech made by National party leader Don Brash to the Local Government New Zealand conference in Wellington yesterday.

In the speech Dr Brash issues a directive to local government to: "stand up for yourselves and to not be meekly steamrollered." He goes on to label local government leaders "frustrated middle management" and "introverted in their thinking".

"These comments show a National government would bring gridlock to the collaboration achieved over the past six years between the two arms of government," Mark Burton said. "It also shows an astonishing lack of understanding of, or respect for, local government leaders – in my experience I have not found many who I would label meek."

"This Labour-led government believes local government is a key governance partner."

"There is no place for a relationship between central and local government characterised by confrontation and bullying. It's ratepayers and Kiwi families who will lose out in this scenario."

By contrast local government leaders have welcomed this government's aim of building local government capability and a number of important recent initiatives for the sector. Key among them are changes to the Rates Rebates scheme that came into effect on 1 July.

"Up to 300,000 New Zealanders are now eligible for rates rebates of up to $500 and the income eligibility threshold for getting the full rebate has also considerably increased."

"The significance of these changes should not be underestimated - in the 2004/05 rating year less than 4000 people actually received a rebate."

"For older New Zealanders and others on lower incomes the changes will have a very real and positive impact on the household budget," Mark Burton said.

"Dr Brash would do well to realise that endless petty political attacks and a boorish attitude are no substitutes for serious policy and respectful engagement."

ENDS

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