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The Localism Debate, Northland, Kaikohe


20 March 2014

It’s time to go local

The Localism Debate - Northland Public Meeting – Kaikohe RSA, Monday 14th April, 6:30-8:30pm

Focus New Zealand host Dr Oliver Hartwich in Kaikohe to debate New Zealand’s centralised government structure and a control shift back to local communities.

New Zealand has one of the most centralised government structures in the OECD, with just 11% of funds going to local government (less than half the OECD average). That includes our Regional and District councils. Dr Hartwich debated Bill English last year in Wellington, and presented his paper a ‘A global perspective on Localism’ challenging central Government that New Zealand needs to free up the centralised rein of control and funds to develop economic and viable local communities throughout New Zealand. “This is a message Focus New Zealand fights for”, says Party President Ken Rintoul.

“The Better Local Government Reforms introduced in parliament March 2012 had some very real opportunities to make local government more efficient, effective and accountable; Focus NZ also support these values, but the approach of the Local Government Commission, tasked with reorganisation, has been old fashioned, authoritarian and quite frankly a waste of a good opportunity for Northland”, says Mr Rintoul.

Far North District Council, under Wayne Brown’s leadership, lodged the application in December 2012 that started this process – and whether you agreed with that or not, we believe at the heart of the debate is local government funding! Northland and other provinces throughout New Zealand need more funding and less control from central government agencies, whereas the Commission seems very fixated on delivering a more centralised ‘bigger is better’ structure. This bias to support central Government agenda’s is clearly limiting discussions and transparency in the Northland debate, and is also a community concern in the Hawkes Bay restructure.

Local government has become the lackey of central government legislation and restrictions; whilst Ministries such as MBIE have gone from about 180 to 1800 bureaucrats in the last 18 months to develop economic growth. Focus New Zealand believe this investment should have been in the local sector; creating unique and strong provinces right across New Zealand. “Our view is pretty simple really, ‘local communities to grow local economies, makes for a stronger New Zealand!” explains Mr Rintoul.

“Another example is our road funding, local councils and communities are always chasing road funding which is dished out at the discretion of bureaucrats in Auckland and Wellington while local producers are getting penalised for road damage, as we are busy transporting milk, lamb, beef, and timber to keep New Zealand going. This clearly is not benefiting a productive New Zealand and is not good enough”, says Mr Rintoul.

Dr Oliver Hartwich, presented his robust localism debate at the Local Government NZ Conference last year and we are thrilled he accepted our invitation to present to the Northland community. It’s a start on the Focus NZ promise of standing up for the real New Zealand, getting the right people in the room to share ideas and find solutions.

Focus NZ have invited all elected members from the four Northland Councils (FNDC, KDC, WDC, and NRC) to the event and for the first time since the re-organisation process began we will have a public discussion with both regional and district councillors in the same room. Far North District Councillor John Vujcich, Northland Regional Councillor Joe Carr, and Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board member John Schollum will talking from a local perspective following Dr Hartwich’s presentation, and then there will be an opportunity for the audience to ask questions of the local panel and Dr Hartwich.

“Quiet frankly we think it’s shameless that neither of our current MP’s for Northland have bothered to coordinate a Northland meeting on local government restructure, nor put forward any fresh perspectives about how we can grow Northland, rather than trying to make it bigger with less!!”

All members of the public, elected members and open minded political parties are welcome to attend the meeting; “keeping it local” is a message we’ve heard resonate right across the Northland community and we want to help strengthen that and take it to Wellington.

Time to go Local - Dr Oliver Harwich paper Time_to_go_local__Dr_Oliver_Hartwich.pdf

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