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Business Organisations Reiterate Concerns

Business Organisations Reiterate Concerns Over Local Government Bill

The chairman of the Local Government Forum, Rob McLagan said that a meeting with the Minister of Local Government, Chris Carter, which it had sought on 9 October was held today to discuss its concerns about the Local Government Bill.

"We remain firmly opposed to the thrust of the Bill", Mr McLagan said. "We consider that councils should be limited in the activities they undertake and nothing the Minister said reduces our concerns that the Bill will encourage them to expand their activities and impose further costs on businesses and ratepayers at large."

Mr McLagan said that the Forum group, comprising representatives of Business New Zealand, the Business Roundtable, Federated Farmers and the New Zealand Forest Owners Association, considered it was absurd for the Government to be seeking to pass a complex 734 page Bill with major constitutional and economic implications under urgency before Christmas.

"MPs have no hope of properly absorbing the many amendments proposed by the select committee and considering other amendments, let alone addressing the fundamental concerns which the business community is raising.

"Business organisations see the Bill, together with ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the occupational health and safety legislation and the proposal for a Supreme Court as further evidence that the Government is not heeding their advice that it lacks a strategy to achieve its goal of retuning New Zealand to the top half of the OECD income rankings."

Mr McLagan said that Mr Carter's predecessor as Minister of Local Government had stated that "before the government could consider giving local authorities the power of general competence, there must be a far greater level of sign-up from those who, at the end of the day pay the bills."

"Clearly this requirement has not been met", Mr McLagan said. "The business community, which pays around 50% of rates, is in general strongly opposed to the legislation, as are other ratepayer representatives.

"Rather than ram the Bill through, the far more sensible course would be to delay it and engage in principled discussions with the aim of achieving a far more robust and durable consensus about the shape of local government."

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