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Mahuta: Launch of the Quality of Life Report 2007

Hon Nanaia Mahuta

Minister of Local Government

Speech at the Launch of the Quality of Life Report 2007

held in the Manukau Room, Manukau City Council, 31-33 Wiri Station Rd, Manukau

on Tuesday 27 November 2007, 12pm

Mihi

(Minister to Provide)

Introduction

Your Worships, the Mayors of the Auckland region and surrounding districts, the Mayors of Hamilton, Wellington region and Dunedin, the Chief Executive Officers of the city and district councils from around the country represented here today, not to mention local and city council representatives and the Quality of Life Project team, It’s my pleasure to be here with you for the launch of the third Quality of Life Report. The previous two were launched by the Prime Minister, signalling the importance of a connected Central and Local government relationship. Thank you for inviting me.

I want to congratulate everyone who was involved in the Report. Producing a document of this size and quality takes a lot of commitment and effort. I’d like to make special mention of the project sponsor, Jim Harland, and Kath Jamieson, who managed the project. And, also, the inter-council team of researchers, writers and reviewers, who have contributed to the report.

I am impressed by the collaborative approach undertaken by Councils to the project. It’s an excellent demonstration of what Councils can achieve by working together, gaining a better appreciation for some common indicators that can be used to define planning and policy objectives at a community level.

I’m sure you’ll all be very pleased with the final product. You’ve produced a comprehensive, well-researched and readable document. Like its two predecessors, the Report will be an invaluable resource for your councils. Together the reports provide a record of your communities’ wellbeing over the years, as well as a resource to help you to set priorities and plan for your communities’ wellbeing.

The aim of the Report is to provide decision-makers in urban areas with a greater level of information, and will also be of value to other councils, central government and community organisations. Not only for the information it contains but also for its methodology.

Some of the issues highlighted in the Report include;

Sustainability:

The Report identifies sustainable growth as a key issue for your councils and communities. Sustainability is also at the heart of the Government’s agenda. Being sustainable involves improving the quality of life for current generations without compromising the wellbeing of future generations.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister said she believed that New Zealand can aim to be the first country that is truly sustainable. Work is being carried out across a large number of government agencies to try to achieve this goal. For example, initiatives for waste minimisation, household sustainability programmes, fostering sustainable partnerships with businesses, and energy efficiency campaigns.

The Government is taking a number of steps to help councils meet the challenge of sustainable growth. Waste minimisation is one of these areas. The recently introduced ‘Recycling in Public Places’ project is an example of how councils and the Government can work together to manage waste.

On the legislation front, the Government has presented several proposals to the Select Committee considering the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill. These include a national waste levy on solid waste to landfills, new reporting requirements to improve the collection of data on waste, and a review of council and central government responsibilities. We’re also proposing new product stewardship regulations, and the establishment of a waste advisory board.

Later this year, an online sustainability portal (www.sustainability.govt.nz) will be launched. In addition, the Government is looking at ways to share some of the lessons from the carbon neutral public service and sustainable procurement initiatives with councils.

We all know that nformation sharing is not a one way street. Central and local government have their own areas of strength, can learn from the other. This is necessary if we are to deepen our commitment towards achieving sustainable outcomes.

Creating sustainable communities needs to start at the grass roots. Councils can help by encouraging energy efficient technologies – for example, environmentally friendly buildings and construction methods. They can promote better waste management. They can put in place good planning practices that provide for growth whilst protecting our natural and built heritage.

I know that as leaders of your communities you are taking steps to deal with the challenge of accommodating both growth and sustainability. Councils’ adoption of initiatives such as Communities for Climate Protection, the work of the Metropolitan Sector forum, and collaborative projects such as the Quality of Life reports, demonstrate that commitment. I understand that local government managers are also proactively working together on these issues through SOLGM.

These efforts are deliberate, incremental and contribute towards achieveing sustainable growth in our communities.

Housing

Another issue raised in the Quality of Life Report is that of housing. The Report notes that home ownership rates are lower amongst some sectors of the population, notably Māori, Pacific Island and lower income households.

The emphasis on housing highlights the challenge for this Government and we are concerned about housing affordability, particularly in metropolitan areas. Suitable housing is an important factor in ensuring individual and community wellbeing. And we need to consider how we might respond to issues of demand, supply and affordability of quality housing.

Some of you may be aware that the Government is developing a bill aimed at increasing the supply of affordable housing. Under the Affordable Housing Bill, councils will be able to require all property developers to make a contribution to the cost of providing affordable housing. A contribution could be land, houses, or funds instead of houses. Councils wanting to use the provisions will have to develop an affordable housing policy, which in turn would be based on a housing needs assessment.

We recognise that housing affordability varies from town to town and district to district. So councils will be able to choose whether or not they use the Bill’s provisions. We intend that the provisions will be flexible enough to enable councils to use the tools in the way best suited to their communities.

Caring for our Young

I was pleased to see that improving the wellbeing and safety of our young is one of the points for action in the Report.

I was interested to learn that many of your cities have a younger median age than nationally - in Manukau and Porirua, for example, a quarter of the population is under 15 years of age. Having a high proportion of children and young people can create both benefits and challenges for communities. They can contribute vitality, enthusiasm and innovation to their communities. The challenge is to try to create the right climate and opportunities to encourage them to make that contribution. Children and young people often have little or no say in policies that affect them so I urge you to consider their views wherever possible.

Many of your cities also have relatively large numbers of Pacific Island and Māori families. The Report states that these families, and sole-parent families, tend to be over-represented in the lower socio-economic bracket. This can impact on their ability to access goods and services. Involving them in decisions about their communities is crucial if we want to ensure they have the resources they need to raise their children.

Young people are our future. I believe that achieving long-term sustainable social and economic growth depends on how well we care for them and respond to their needs. I want to acknowledge the work many of you are doing to encourage greater participation of young people, Maaori and Pacific communities.

Working together

The Report acknowledges that the issues you are facing to ensure a good quality of life for your communities are often best solved by a collaborative approach involving local government, central government, and the community, iwi/Māori and private sector organisations. I agree with the view that we should all work together to ensure the wellbeing of our communities, and for my part in the scheme of things, I will continue to work towards ensuring a legislative framework that enables you to carry out your responsibilities, and advocates across the government sector towards integrated partnering with Local Government to achieve better outcomes.

A close working relationship between local and central government is critical. The sustainability of rates, civil defence and Auckland governance are just a few examples that compound my motivation to get it right with you.

Conclusion

Overall, the Report stated that 90% of residents feel they have a good or very good quality of life. That’s a pretty good indicator. While the road ahead is certainly not without its challenges, I am confident that your willingness to work together on initiatives such as the Quality of Life project will help you to better respond to the challenges ahead and continue to make a difference to improve the lives and wellbeing of your communities.


ENDS

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