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Councils’ Increased Focus On Social Well-Being

Citizens Advice Bureaux Endorse Councils’ Increased Focus On Social Well-Being

The New Zealand Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux today enthusiastically welcomed proposed changes to the Local Government Act in its submission on the review of the Act.

The Government has proposed to change the legislation under which councils operate. Public consultation on the review of the Local Government Act concluded today.

“The Act takes a significant step towards strengthening the relationship between local councils and their communities, a move which we are delighted to see,” said the Association’s CEO Nick Toonen.

“It places increased emphasis on council’s role in supporting social well-being, and further moves local government in New Zealand away from a limited ‘rates, roads and rubbish’ mentality.

“It promotes stronger partnerships between local government, central government and local communities with the focus on improving the well-being of each community. Citizens Advice Bureaux share the same focus – the well-being of their local communities– and the strength of the CAB service is that it has arisen out of a need in each community. Local people set up each bureau, staff the service as trained volunteers, meet the Association’s national membership standards on an ongoing basis, and keep each bureau operating,” Nick Toonen said.

There are currently 88 Citizens Advice Bureaux spread between Kaitaia and Invercargill and each of those bureaux has a relationship with a local authority. Between 1999 and 2001, CAB dealt with over 60,000 enquiries relating to a wide range of local government services and issues including neighbourhood disputes, town planning, resource management, by-laws, visitor information, civic services, elections and animal registration.

“We actively support councils on a daily basis, providing information about their services to the public, as well as supporting the community generally. The public sees us as impartial and reliable. We provide a human face with voluntary staff who have the time to listen, an invaluable asset to the health of any community.

“We are also able to provide a window on the main issues and concerns in communities because nationally we deal with over 11,000 clients a week. Bureaux can provide their local councils with a snapshot of local community issues and concerns at any time.”

“Current relationships between councils and bureaux vary greatly across the country, from those councils that provide good financial and in-kind support to local bureaux to those that give very little practical or other support.

“Clearly, a positive and healthy relationship is to everyone’s advantage. We see this Act as an opportunity for those bureaux with less council support to develop more effective and meaningful relationships. We hope that the tenuous nature of a number of those relationships will change by councils undertaking longer term planning and making longer term funding agreements with bureaux. The current short-term contracts that exist make it difficult for bureaux to plan ahead,” Nick Toonen said.

Ends

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