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LGNZ conference 2014: President’s opening speech

LGNZ conference 2014: President’s opening speech

Ladies and gentlemen, the Hon Paula Bennett and particularly our Members, New Zealand’s 78 local governments, this year’s theme: Powering Local Economies | Building Vibrant Communities, is timely.

Shortly New Zealanders will decide on the future direction of this country, and particularly its economic future.

In local government, one of our major aims is to foster economic growth. Representing all communities in New Zealand, we recognise that economic growth should occur across all of New Zealand - our cities, regions and provincial New Zealand.

What is clear is that, in the medium term, there are some clouds over the future of provincial New Zealand. Jobs and essential services will be stretched. And population changes will add financial pressures on local government.

This is at odds with what our provinces contribute to the national economy. And so it’s absolutely vital we find a solution to this conundrum, which I know is concerning the Government and Opposition politicians as much as us here in Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ).

A shared approach to solving this and ensuring the maintenance of the infrastructure that supports the economic engine of New Zealand will be essential.

There must be sufficient investment in natural and human capital to sustain our provinces so they can continue to prosper.

Looking ahead, regional New Zealand contains economic opportunity, natural resources, and local innovation. They are places our tourists like to visit and where some of our greatest minds and talent choose to live.

LGNZ wants regional New Zealand to be as confident about its future as our cities are about theirs.

We are seeking a commitment from central government to work on a joint national strategy to strengthen the future of provincial New Zealand, and ensure growth across all of the country.

LGNZ will get the ball rolling by launching a roadshow for provincial New Zealand over coming months.

We will listen, gain further insights and work with provincial stakeholders and councils to focus the prime issues and possible solutions to discuss with central government.

We see the future of provincial New Zealand as a top priority for local government over the next three years.

Achievements

Ladies and gentlemen, the past year has been a strong one for LGNZ.

First, we are serving our members with new initiatives in governance and other training, for example for newly elected Councillors. We welcome Government support for these initiatives.

LGNZ is assisting with expertise in enabling shared services for our members.

We have EquiP, local government’s Centre of Excellence, up and running.

To support our Regional sector, we’re putting in place a Project Office that will manage at a national level the environmental monitoring and reporting work that takes place in all the regional and unitary councils across New Zealand.

We are proactive advocates on policy, covering issues as diverse as psychoactive substances, infrastructure and growth, local body voting, developing a sustainable funding model for local government and reforming ways to regulate this sector.

We believe we have constructive engagement with central government. LGNZ has positive relations with stakeholders and we welcome increased media coverage of sector issues.

Mostly, the past year has been about local government being more in tune with those who we represent. On this goal, continuous improvement is the mantra.

Despite the enormous challenges we face in our work, from core services to natural disasters to delivering on legislative changes, we generally perform well.

We can do better, however, with all those we represent.

The future – building and demonstrating value

Part of improving what we do involves understanding what others think of us, and responding positively to that.

LGNZ has recently researched New Zealanders’ views of local government. While we presently only have topline results, it is clear that New Zealanders value local decisions by local people.

On the other hand, local government needs to better explain what it does, the value it adds to local communities, and to account more for its performance.

Not enough New Zealanders understand the size and importance of local government in economic development and growth.

We are being open about these results because we want to transform the sector to its rightful place in our communities and at a national level.

Clearly, we need to match the faith New Zealanders have in local government with what we do and what we contribute.

We need to reflect the real things, the real value and the real people local government brings to all New Zealand communities each and every day.

If we can do this, it will have positive outcomes for councils, local and central government, our stakeholders and partners, and for those we represent.

New partnerships

Today I have two important new partnerships to announce for the sector, both of which sit in our Centre of Excellence, EquiP.

Firstly, LGNZ is delighted to announce that it has formed a partnership with FairWay Resolution Limited, a Crown-owned company providing conflict management and dispute resolution services.

LGNZ and FairWay have identified that our effectiveness as a sector can be further improved if we increase engagement and allow quick resolution on issues.

FairWay has appointed former Kapiti Mayor Jenny Rowan to lead this important relationship and over coming months we will roll out specific offers for members. Jenny is here at the conference and I’d encourage members to meet with her.

LGNZ is also delighted to announce a significant new partnership with the Transport Agency to establish a new Road Transportation Unit.

LGNZ and the Transport Agency recognise we have a responsibility to provide long-term guardianship of our roading assets, which means making smart, value-for-money investments to provide the right level of service.

This unit flows out of the work that the joint local government - NZTA Roading Efficiency Group, chaired by Brian Roche, has led to date.

Located within our Centre of Excellence, this Unit will embed best practice in road asset management at both the governance and maintenance level.

It will assist with the introduction of vital tools such as the One Network Road Classification, and it will add in gains from clustering and collaboration of local authorities. Finally, it will support people with practical advice on how to maximize the value from these tools over the longer term.

I would like to thank the Board and management team at the Transport Agency, particularly Chief Executive Geoff Dangerfield and Group Manager Planning and Investment Dave Brash, for working with us to realise this significant opportunity.

New Institute of Directors services

We also recognise the interest shown by members in the Institute of Directors partnership, announced 12 months ago, and the uptake of governance training within councils.

Today we announce the launch of the BetterBoards assessment tools for which is designed to recognise specific governance improvements that can be made within each council. We also announce a special Institute of Directors membership offer for councils.

These are just but a few of the services that show the significant focus that our sector is placing on improved governance and performance.

Concluding comments

Ladies and gentlemen, the sector is indeed moving ahead.

There are new initiatives, measures to improve performance and extended partnerships. We are more active and arguably more influential on policy matters and issues affecting us.

We can lift local government’s perceptual value further with those we represent.

We have set our sights and our priorities. We have something to offer, particularly on major issues such as a national strategy to ensure economic growth in all areas of New Zealand.

With all our challenges and opportunities, local government is assuming its rightful place.

On that positive note, I wish you all a very successful and enjoyable conference.

*Ends*

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