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PM Calls For Local Govt To Work To Lower Costs

MEDIA RELEASE
Monday 12 July 1999

PM CALLS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO WORK TO LOWER COSTS

Prime Minister Jenny Shipley today called on local government to share the challenge with central Government of working to bring down costs and improve services for ratepayers and taxpayers.

"We are colleagues in the business of government and I know that local government is taking that to heart," Mrs Shipley told the annual conference of Local Government New Zealand, in Auckland today.

"The best local bodies are working closely with Government for the benefit of their constituents, but there is room to lift our game," she said.

"We're not in the business of telling local government what to do. You know best the solutions to local problems. What we have tried to do is introduce general frameworks for you to work within for the sake of your ratepayers.

"Your own organisations are benefiting from work that the Government has done to bring down costs and improve services, such as the ACC reforms and electricity reforms.

"We are also about to introduce amendments to the Resource Management Act. All these measures bring tangible benefits to your ratepayers.

"But without co-operation from local government, people in some areas will be denied the full benefit of the reforms.

"That puts a huge responsibility on you to deliver, and I give you my commitment that the Government will work closely with you to get results."

Mrs Shipley said there were a number of other issues on which central and local government would have to work together, including roading reform and water management.

"On the question of roading reform, we're having extensive negotiations with your groups because we're committed to do it right rather than do it quickly."

She said that as central and local government looked at the options, they needed to find long-term solutions that would allow investment to anticipate future needs and encourage road-users to go for the most cost-effective method of transport.

"It's important that we put aside local rivalries. Local interest groups must be on board, but they mustn't capture the solution.

"The problems are enormous in some areas, as any commuter on Auckland's congested roads know.

"Most weeks I find myself in Auckland travelling across the city. I know too well the delay and extra time I must build into my schedule just to cope with the congestion Aucklanders deal with on a daily basis.

"These delays are unacceptable in our largest city. The costs to the Auckland community are too high.

"We're determined to do something about it. The Government has laid out its options of what is possible and what is not up for negotiation – such as no privatisation of the roading network.

"But now it's up to you to make some choices. We look forward to working closely with local authorities on this issue," Mrs Shipley said.

"As we look for solutions, we'll have to make sure those taking the risks don’t just transfer the costs onto long-suffering Auckland rate and taxpayers."

Some similar issues were raised by the issue of water management.

"We are well down the track putting together a discussion document on the delivery of water, wastewater and storm water services.

"Last month when I met the Metropolitan Mayors they made the plea that they be given the opportunity to work through the issues themselves.

"I welcome their initiative. There is nothing the Government would like more than for Local Government New Zealand and the Metro Mayors to take on the job of developing a framework for water and wastewater."

Mrs Shipley said any approach must ensure:
- customers can access safe and certain water services at reasonable cost;
- services are delivered in an efficient and environmentally sustainable way;
- appropriate investment occurs in both assets and water quality;
- clear accountability is established for the management of the services;
- strong incentives exist for innovation and service improvement; and
- fairness to both public and private providers of water services is achieved.

ENDS

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