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Deputy Mayor Welcomes Coherent Vision For Local Government

By Janet Holborow, Deputy Mayor, Kāpiti Coast District Council


On Friday Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced a review of Local Government in New Zealand, and the appointment of a panel to be chaired by Jim Palmer to to start working towards a reform of the sector.

As Mayors, Councillors, MPs and community representatives gathered at the Dowse Museum, there was a sense of a historic occasion, a turning point in the way we we think about democracy in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The setting was appropriate, outside the doors of Nuku Tewhatewha. Recognised as one of Te Awa Kairangi’s greatest treasures, this Pataka built in 1856 has become a symbol of a shared vision and the value of partnership. The way forward announced by Minister Mahuta at the steps of Nuku Tewhatewha repesents the first real shake-up of Local Government since 1989, and a pathway with enormous potential to change and enhance how we look after the well-being of our communities.

Water reform, Resource Management Reform and The National Policy Statement on Urban Development have arguably necessitated a conversation about the purpose of Local Government, and this was acknowledged by Mahuta. This review will look at how the system needs to evolve long-term, over decades not years. It’s not a review about what’s wrong with Local Government, more about what we need to get right across all levels of governance.

A panel has been appointed, which is tasked with engaging with the sector, iwi, communities, and stakeholders to map out how the future will look. What can we achieve if we think differently? How can we best deliver the change that’s needed to address the huge challenges facing us over the coming decades?

The attempted amalgamation of Wellington some years ago was an example of the structure coming before the purpose. Rather than asking how councils should look, we need to start with asking what we need to achieve for our people and our communities. How can we work cohesively to improve our communities, our environment, our infrastructure and our lives?

Crucial to this will be the quality of early engagement. I hope that the panel are well enough resourced to really dig into what’s important to people, what are our challenges, what are our priorities, and how we can best address all of that across our diverse communities.

We have the opportunity for a kind of conversation which is meaningful, profound and significant. It’s important that we enter this conversation with an open mind as we re-imagine how Local Government can be integral to a democracy and governance which addresses our environmental, social and economic challenges. Newly appointed Chair Jim Palmer described this as a once in a life-time opportunity. It certainly is.

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