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Clarity needed on councils' purpose

14 September 2012

Clarity needed on councils' purpose

BusinessNZ says the purpose of local government needs to be properly established in new legislation.

Last night BusinessNZ presented its views to the select committee considering the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill.

Chief Executive Phil O'Reilly says the purpose statement in the current Act is very broad and permissive, and has resulted in a number of councils taking on, or investing in, too many non-essential activities exposing ratepayers to unnecessary risk and cost.

"The current Act allows councils to ensure communities' 'four wellbeings' - social, cultural, economic and environmental - and this very broad purpose statement has allowed councils throughout New Zealand to continue to expand their operations into the provision of services which more appropriately should be undertaken by the private sector, if at all. Moreover, councils have backed projects with marginal or negative economic returns. Businesses often bear a disproportionate share of these costs given the significant use of business rating differentials by many councils.

"The Amendment Bill has a more restrained purpose statement and is a significant improvement on current legislation, but should to be tightened further.

"A clearer definition of local government’s important role is essential," Mr O'Reilly said.

ENDS

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