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Peters: Bay of Plenty Mayors Forum

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Speech to Bay of Plenty Mayors Forum
Rotorua District Council
Civic Centre
15 April 2008, 2.15pm

BAY OF PLENTY MAYORS FORUM

Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.

There is no doubt that central and local government share a symbiotic relationship – although independent, we are both dependant on each other over many issues and the actions of one group impact on the other.

It was for this reason that in 2006 New Zealand First pushed for and secured a comprehensive review of rates and how local government generates its revenue. The inquiry received 926 submissions

This review became the Shand report, which is an extremely valuable document in understanding the practical options available to address long term sustainable funding of local government.

The report made recommendations across eight areas:

• the drivers of expenditure,
• the use of rating tools,
• non-rates funding mechanisms,
• alternative sources of funding,
• sustainability and affordability of rates,
• land covered by Te Ture Whenua Maori Act,
• exemptions, decision making, planning and accountability.

New Zealand First has been most displeased with the government’s inaction on the recommendations which were put forward on each front.

The Report made 96 recommendations – some of which we don’t agree with – but many which we do.

Many revolve around change to the Local Government Act 2002, and the power of general competence which was passed over to local government.

Others relate to addressing the clear costs of impositions placed on local government through legislation.

How local governments manage debt was a further feature of the report as was looking at alternatives to simply using property valuations as the means of setting rates.

Some of the key recommendations on sustainability and affordability of rates certainly merit further attention.

Conducting research into the impact of rates on low income households, on residential versus non-residential sectors will give us the basis for building a long term sustainable model.

As are enhancements to the rates rebate scheme.

There were also a number of sound recommendations in relation to Te Ture Whenua Maori Act.

Rating on Maori land has long been a difficult issue and many of the recommendations in this report go some way towards addressing it.

Perhaps the most fundamental recommendations relate to decision-making, planning and accountability.

The recommendations around capacity building, consultation and communication with the community are all worthy of further work.

Now we could go on in relation to the Shand report – but you get the point.

This is a quality piece of work and New Zealand First intends to ensure that post 2008 government takes heed of the many valuable recommendations it contains.

Now you asked that we address 6 areas in our remaining time.

Transport, Affordable Housing, Climate Change, Law and Order, Waste Management and Local Government compliance issues.

That is quite a list, but one we are happy to address.

Transport infrastructure is a core component of long term economic growth.

It always has and always will be.

New Zealand First has a long track record of delivering on transport.


Transport

New Zealand First is committed to achieving the best possible integrated transport system for our unique geographical and demographic requirements.

For us integrated means both the mix between public transport and roading and the mix between road, rail, shipping and air transport as it relates to freight and moving our goods around.

Local government clearly has a role to play at each of these levels within this region.

Tauranga is the most dynamic port in New Zealand and is a nexus of roads, rail and shipping with distinct requirements.

This is why New Zealand First ensured that the 2nd harbour bridge was toll free – it is essential to the growth of the region.

And while we are on the bridge, we have heard some false and deliberately deceitful claims that building the bridge resulted in funding being diverted from other projects.

That is not true – the bridge was built with new money. That was always part of the deal.

The real key to addressing transport issues are the combination of long term planning, appropriate funding and efficient implementation.

There are some impediments which can be removed to improve each of these steps.

The RMA needs refinement, to smooth the consents process. While we would never want to lose local input into decision-making, we must also accept that long-term planning, particularly in a region growing as fast as the Bay of Plenty, requires a streamlined approach.

New Zealand First has ensured that now all money intended for roading goes to that purpose, which has seen a massive boost in road funding. We also supported the regional petrol tax as another tool in the box for regional councils to raise funds for transport. In fact the Mayor of Tauranga wrote to us to ask us to do so.

Efficient implementation really does sit with local government, but even here a cooperative approach between central and local government will make this process easier.

Getting the mix between air, rail, roads and shipping also requires a macro high level cooperative approach. Patch protection and a siloed approach will not lead to efficiencies.


Affordable Housing

Affordable housing is one of the great challenges confronting New Zealand.
There are no silver bullets.

If we look at supply side issues we can look at options to free up more land and building materials, but there are implications in doing this.

The demand side is very much driving this equation both through natural growth and immigration. With this region being one of the fastest growing in New Zealand it is an issue that is most pressing.

We used to be a property owning democracy and owning a home was a common aspiration for young married couples.

Now simply entering the property market is for too many prohibitive.

New Zealand First does believe that assistance for first home buyers and rent to buy schemes need to be part of the mix of solutions.

We would also rewrite the Reserve Bank Act to deal with the crippling interest rates which are trying to combat imported inflation by hammering our local economy.

But ultimately addressing affordable housing will come down to ensuring we have a sufficient supply of houses priced to meet demand.

Much like transport – this will not occur until central and local government work cooperatively.


Climate Change

With National now committed to an ETS, New Zealanders must now accept the reality that an Emissions Trading Scheme of one form or another will be in place within a year.

So what does this mean for local government?

Well to put it simply, this represents an opportunity to rethink issues such as land use.

The clock has already started ticking in relation to our Kyoto obligations, we cannot escape this fact.

What we can do is look at what options are available to reduce our carbon footprint and to turn this issue from a negative to a positive.

Land use, which is core local government business, will be critical to this.


Law and Oder

New Zealand First is the one party in parliament with a track record on law and order.
We have ensured that police numbers and police ratios in relation to population are headed in the right direction.

In fact this region has over 80 new front line police since 2005 – your share of the extra one thousand we secured.

We have the courage to tackle gangs. In fact, my colleague Ron Mark has a Bill which will make then illegal based on similar laws in overseas jurisdictions.

We have a zero tolerance policy on drugs. They are a scourge on our society and police must be empowered to tackle them head on.

New Zealand First is the only party prepared to tackle youth justice.

Others talk about it, but when they had the chance to vote for Ron Mark’s young offenders Bill they were nowhere to be seen.


Waste Management

New Zealand First believes that we must find the most effective and efficient technologies to deal with waste management.

Put simply as our populations grow so to does the amount of waste we must deal with.

Without adequate planning - and this is actually addressed in the Shand report - then we end up with ad-hoc and often inadequate waste management systems.

We must also address the ongoing environmental considerations associated with waste management.


Local Government Compliance issues

This issue was addressed by the Shand report.

We must reduce the burden placed on local government by central government, while ensuring that local government does have the ability to adequately enforce those aspects which are core local government business.

This will require further dialogue between central and local government and through forums such as these.


ENDS


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