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Eight important issues debated at LGNZ AGM

Eight important issues debated at Local Government New Zealand AGM

The local government sector voted on eight significant issues when it gathered for its annual AGM in Dunedin today. There was a strong focus on local democracy, community and health issues in this year’s remits. These remits, voted on in a secret ballot, will now become official policy and be actioned by Local Government New Zealand.

The Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2)
Waimate District Council supported by many councils around New Zealand proposed a remit in response to the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill, which it says in its current form will severely hinder the rights of communities to have any say around Local Government Commission led council reorganisation or the formation of Council Controlled Organisations. The council argues the legislation removes the current requirement for community support on a range of matters and gives both the Commission and the Minister wide-ranging powers to impose change without a community poll.

The remit calls on Local Government New Zealand to vigorously oppose any measure in the Bill that directly or indirectly removes the requirement for community consultation, demonstrable community support and direct local authority involvement in reorganisation investigations and local decision-making of councils or their assets.

Local government members were overwhelming in their support for this remit with 97 per cent in favour.

Community policing
A remit calling for increased resourcing for community policing was put forward by a number of New Zealand’s councils and debated at the AGM today.

Community policing is a growing issue, especially for rural communities. The councils say communities are already footing the bill for increased security measures like CCTV and foot patrols, indicating the day to day presence of police in communities throughout New Zealand is shrinking.

The remit asks that LGNZ advocate for an increase in police resourcing to ensure adequate police staffing and coverage can be provided to New Zealand communities, and that Police commanders are not forced to compromise community policing due to budget constraints.

The remit received overwhelming support with 97 per cent voting in favour.

Minimum standards for rental housing
A remit proposed by the Porirua City Council and supported by New Zealand’s Metro councils asked that Local Government New Zealand engages with the Government on ways to strengthen the minimum standards for rental housing to ensure that all rental homes are warm, dry and healthy to live in.

The councils say housing quality is a growing area of concern for many local authorities and is related to the pressing issue of housing affordability and homelessness. They say improving the quality of rental housing should over time reduce pressure on social housing providers and contribute to better health outcomes, which in turn benefit communities.

The remit was passed overwhelmingly with 93 per cent support.

Freedom camping
New Zealand’s South Island councils have called for changes to legislation to enable local government to more effectively control the negative issues associated with freedom camping, and seek a working group of central and local government and the tourism industry to shape this as an urgent priority.

The councils asked that the Freedom Camping Act 2011 be amended to allow any infringement fine to be tagged to the vehicle which is being used to cause the offence, forcing rental companies and vehicle owners to take some responsibility for the actions of their clients and collect fines on behalf of enforcement authorities; allow fines to be instantaneous, preventing individuals from leaving the country during the period when infringements are able to be paid; and allow broader exemptions to the need for provision of camping facilities for those that wish to freedom camp in all areas and not just at “remote” camps.

The remit received overwhelming support with 96 per cent of votes in favour.

Impact of dust on sealed roads
Auckland and the northern councils of New Zealand have called for action to address the impacts on human health from dust on unsealed roads.

The councils have called for a working party of Local Government New Zealand, the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Ministry of Health, Iwi and other affected parties established to investigate the impact of dust on human health. The councils say dust emission from unsealed roads could be causing significant health issues for people who reside near these roads, and there needs to be agreement on how dust is measured, what the health impacts are and recommended mitigation strategies.

The remit received very strong support with 85 per cent of votes in favour.

Preservation of earthquake prone public heritage buildings
Creating a new fund to help councils preserve earthquake prone public heritage buildings has been called for by a number of provincial and metropolitan councils.

The remit proposed that LGNZ advocate to the Government to set up a fund to provide assistance to local communities to preserve their heritage buildings. Heritage listed buildings and their protection is a matter of national importance. In many cases these buildings are iconic and represent significant elements of New Zealand’s built and cultural heritage. They are expensive to preserve and run the risk of being lost if costs of preservation become too high to be borne locally.

The remit received very strong support with 91 per cent in favour.

Relocation of government services to regional centres
A number of New Zealand’s regional and metropolitan councils want to explore the potential benefits to regional New Zealand of relocating more government services in the regions.

In the remit debated at the AGM today the councils also asked that the Government look at ways to increase the ability for more civil servants to work remotely from regions outside Wellington. The councils say the gradual shift of government offices away from rural and provincial centres meant some communities have lost their biggest employers.

One of the biggest issues facing New Zealand is the future of our regional economies. Given the massive advances in communication technology and the challenges being faced by regional centres, now would be a good time for the Government to look for ways to share the economic benefits that come with its activities.

The remit was passed with support of 73 per cent of votes.

Beverage container deposit system
Palmerston North City Council supported by New Zealand’s Metro councils proposed a remit calling for Local Government New Zealand to endorse the concept of a national-mandated beverage container deposit system, and requested that the Government requires industry to develop and implement this within a two-year period.

Container Deposit Schemes are a mechanism designed to decrease the number of recyclable beverage containers going to landfill or not being recycled. It is the view of the Palmerston North City Council that the development of a mandatory product stewardship scheme would reduce the environmental impact of these products.

The remit was passed with 90 per cent of the members in favour.

ENDS

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