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Labour: No forced council mergers without local input

Phil Twyford
Local Government Spokesperson

16 November 2011

Labour: No forced council mergers without local input

Under Labour there will be no forced council mergers without people having a say in a referendum, says Local Government spokesperson Phil Twyford.

“Labour respects local democracy and the right of local communities to decide their own affairs. We will not force Council mergers. People have the right to decide on mergers through a referendum under the Local Government Act and we will respect that.

“National has shown a disturbing tendency to override local democracy whenever it suits them,” Phil Twyford said. “It rammed the Auckland reforms through without giving people a say, sacked the councillors of Environment Canterbury and in Auckland handed over 75 per cent of council operations to hand-picked corporate boards.”

“There are now indications that National is considering putting unelected appointees on local authorities if they get another term. It is clear they don’t trust local democracy,” Phil Twyford said.

“All over New Zealand people are debating council amalgamations because they are frightened of having it done to them by National. And who can blame them given National’s track record? While Labour is not against amalgamations in principle we are completely opposed to them being forced on communities without their consent.

“Labour will carry out a parliamentary inquiry into the role of local authorities, with the aim of establishing a clearer schedule of mandates, roles and responsibilities, and related funding flows for effective and responsive local government.

“Labour stands for local government that is responsive and accountable to local communities, affordable for its residents and ratepayers and effective in dealing with local issues.

“We will review local government law to free up councils from some of the heavy prescriptive requirements on planning and consultation which end up costing the ratepayer money. Consultation is important but it needs to be genuine, not a tick-box exercise.

“We will also look at the issue of appeals to the Environment Court on RMA matters and see whether we can reduce unnecessary legal costs to the ratepayer.

“Labour will review the workings of the Rates Rebate to make it a more effective form of assistance to those on low incomes who struggle to pay their rates,” Phil Twyford said. “We will change the law to extend eligibility for the rates rebate to residents of ‘license to occupy’ retirement village who are currently excluded.”

ENDS

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