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A new relationship for central and local govt.

2000 web siteLabour Leader Helen Clark said today that Labour in government will build a new relationship between local and central government based on mutual respect.

Launching Labour's local government policy, Helen Clark said that in recent years central government had taken a particularly negative approach to the role of local government.

"Over the past nine years, National has sought to constrain local government, stifle it, restrict its choices, and disempower it. In contrast, the Labour government will work together with regional, and local government to determine an agenda beneficial to us all.

Forum between local and central government
"Labour will initiate a regular forum to identify issues and develop a long-term coherent strategy for local government as a whole. The forum will be held at least annually and will be jointly chaired by the Prime Minister and the president of Local Government New Zealand.

Reform of the Local Government Act
"There also needs to be a thorough overhaul of the outdated and overly prescriptive Local Government Act 1974. The existing legislation imposes compliance costs and stifles innovation. A key feature of Labour's new legislation will be a power of general competence for local authorities. This will enable different communities to create different responses to local issues.

Rates and Annual Charges
"The current government has begun a long overdue review into local government's rating powers. Labour will make this a priority, with particular emphasis on reviewing the inflexible depreciation regime and working towards establishing a fair system of compensation for councils which lose out on rates because of significant holdings of government and publicly-owned land.

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"Labour is also committed to not raising the 30 per cent cap on uniform annual charges on services like sewerage, water and rubbish collection. Allowing a higher proportion of revenue to come from uniform annual charges would have a severe impact on low income households.

"Housing is fundamental to the health and well being of families and communities, and access to quality, affordable housing is critical in our society. Under National, some local authorities have followed the example of central government by setting market rents and selling housing stock.

"Labour will set a different example by introducing income-related rents and ensuring that an adequate supply of housing is available for low and modest income households. Many local authorities have had a tradition of providing housing in their communities. Labour will encourage that provision to continue.

Local and regional economic development
"Labour believes that local government can play a very constructive role in facilitating local and regional economic development. Many local authorities already have - or support - active economic development agencies

"Labour will establish a new Local Economic Assistance Fund (LEAF) to encourage the development of local economic initiatives. It will also encourage local civic entrepreneurs to champion and facilitate the process.

"Local government will play a vital role in developing a new direction for New Zealand under the Labour Government. We see local government acting as a mediator, a broker, and a facilitator between local communities of interest and central government and its agencies," Helen Clark said.

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