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Mayor: 'No evidence to support local govt changes'

September 21st, 2012
[TDC press release]

There is no evidence to support the need for the amendments to local government legislation proposed by the Government, Mayor Richard Kempthorne told the Select Committee hearing submissions in Christchurch.

"Overall our view is there is no evidence or certainty the proposed changes in the Bill will deliver on what the Government is trying to achieve. Rather, the proposals may have a number of unintended consequences," Mr Kempthorne said in presenting the Tasman District Council's submission to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee.

"A major problem for the efficient operation of councils is continual changes in legislation. Such changes cause disruption and diversion of staff and councillors away from delivering services to communities as they are often complex and require huge amounts of staff time to get up to speed and implement.

"Some of the changes from the 2010 amendments have not yet been implemented, so their impact and effectiveness cannot have been assessed before the proposals in this Bill were put forward.

"A key target of the Government has been the purpose of Local Government. The Bill will lead people to believe the need to cater for community wellbeing has created confusion resulting in councils undertaking a new range of activities that caused rates to increase at unprecedented levels.

"There is no sound data, of robust analysis and evidence on which to base that view. No clear causal link has been established to show that the current purpose has led to rates increases.

"Rather, rates increases for Tasman District, and probably other councils, are more the result of the provision of infrastructure, addressing historical deferred maintenance and additional regulatory responsibilities imposed on councils by Government.

"The other major areas of concern relate to the reorganisation principles and the ease of Government intervention. Both these areas place the philosophy of the local in local government at real risk.

"The provisions removing the requirement for a mandatory poll on final reorganisation schemes, and the need for 50 percent support in each affected district, destroys peoples' ability to decide how they wish to be governed. The exclusion of 'effective local community representation' and the need to consider 'representing communities of interest' as key criteria says we all have the same wishes and aspirations which is simply not true.

"The Ministerial intervention options are extremely wide reaching and the definitions of 'problem' and 'significant' that make such intervention possible are very ill-defined and look to enable intervention on very little evidence or need.

"Local Government is always looking to improve how it delivers it services. Making somewhat draconian powers to ride roughshod over peoples' choices is not the answer and will disenfranchise communities rather than make local governance more efficient," Mayor Kempthorne said.

"We have recommended to the Select Committee that they direct the Department of Internal Affairs to work with local government sector representatives to improve the workability of the legislation for the Select Committee's consideration."


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