For a minute just sit and ask yourself the question” when Central Government took over Christchurch post-earthquakes, did they ever listen to us as a community, or was it command and control?”
I am worried about how Central Government has “restructuring” Local Government as a goal. Why is Local Government not publicly speaking up in their defence? This Government is paranoid about criticism and the Court of public opinion is where the debate should be taking place. I have a lot of time for Minister Nanaia Mahuta, but buggar all time for her advisers. Most of whom have never actually been involved in Local Government.
I would never argue that Local Government is perfect. My columns regularly demonstrate my frustration. But, consider this. If our city, in the future, has a problem with water after the proposed restructure we will have to speak to some bureaucrat somewhere in the South Island to discuss it. We will be flooded with PR bullshit from the “communications” unit and the highly paid bureaucrats will report to an invisible board. Somewhere. That’s what is in front of us. I can see people lining up already to receive their larger salaries in the proposed structure.
Once the reforms are in place what will happen when a future right-wing Government is elected? What will stop them having an enquiry and then deciding that there needs to be more competition in water; and that the whole thing must be privatised. Then someone in UK, or USA, or China, whoever owns it, will “own” our water and they will be even further removed from our city and we will sit back and think “why bother”. I hope I’m wrong. But think what happened with energy. What has “competition” achieved for the price of our power?
Let’s contemplate how we had a chance to consider the “restructuring” of Local Government before the last election in election manifestos.
In Newsroom recently there was an article under the headline “fixing New Zealand and finishing Auckland”. It highlights what National and Labour promised in their election manifestos in the last election:
National promised to review the Auckland Council. Labour promised to uphold local decision making and ensure “major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of locals from the outset”. Post-election, they promptly removed the ability of locals to decide or participate on the issue of Maori wards.
Labour also promised to partner local government on projects including “amalgamation/de-amalgamation or reduction of services”. One of these projects, it transpired, is a fundamental reform of local government.
The article went on to say:
Systemic local government change has only come for New Zealand and for Auckland when there has been an acknowledged crisis. The well traversed infrastructure deficits, the antiquated and ineffective council funding model, and, significantly, an inevitability associated with the water reforms seems to have finally persuaded the Labour government to start to act.
A big challenge for the local government review, if it wants to try and avoid this crisis-response cycle, is to find a way to make local government matter more, and for it to operate more effectively.
Here’s the article: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/pro/fixing-new-zealand-and-finishing-auckland
The media are being carefully managed by various Government PR sleuths. There seems to have been few journalists analysing Local Government critically and in-depth. Instead, we have regular updates about Tim Shadbolt and the Invercargill Council. The extremes in Local Government are quoted in the media. However, how often do you read about most other Councils which are handling things reasonably well? I too would question the suitability of the Mayors in Invercargill and Wellington. However, they were both elected into office by their voters. Does that make Local Government broken? I’m not sure.
I am filled with despair at how pathetic the defence of Local Government has been. The Government is picking it apart and if LGNZ are saying anything it’s certainly not appearing in the media. Local Government should be howling from the rooftops right now. Is it because Mayors and Councils are scared of Central Government? What have they got to lose? Water looks to be taken off them thanks to the lobbying of WaterNZ and the chemical companies. Planning looks like going to Central Government. They’ve taken Health back. What’s left?
When I think about political systems, I would point my bony finger in the direction of Central Government and ask how much confidence we can have in many of our elected reps. Of all political parties. Just sit at a Select Committee and listen to the trite, party driven, questions. Or sit in the House and listen to the level of debate and wonder how the hell did these people get here?
As I wrote at the start, residents of Christchurch could supply any number of comments on what it was like living in this city under Central Government agencies after the earthquakes. When Labour was in opposition, they screamed from the rooftops about how badly we were being treated. When they became Government, some things changed. Most didn’t The politicians just fell into line with whatever their departments advised them to do. Think CDHB for example.
When we consider the quote from Nehru, we have to ask both Central and Local Government what are their ideals, objectives and principles of this exercise.
Last weekend Andrea Vance wrote in the Sunday Times:
Councils have been under incredible pressure in the last two decades as they struggle to provide infrastructure for a growing population from rates and the small amount of revenue that comes from parking and consenting charges.
Infrastructure is crumbling, ratepayers are disgruntled and the Government is turning the screws by looking to centralise water infrastructure and planning functions.
The axe is hanging over many of them with a two-year review of the functions of local government now under way.
Maybe the journalists should assess how often Local Government is forced to absorb Central Government laws. With no additional funding. Local Government is a legislated creature of Central Government. If Local government is not functioning properly then maybe it’s a sensible question to ask are the laws correct.
This article was written under a headline “Sir Time Shadbolt epitomises everything that is wrong with Local Government”. Should an entire system be judged by a weak unit? The article went on to say:
The system of local governance is not fit for purpose. But we must also take stock of whether we are recruiting the right character, and mix of diversity of citizens to run our local authorities. If the country is to get to grips with housing affordability, the Covid-19 recovery and climate change, it is important communities get a strong, and capable voice.
Now this is an excellent comment. I share her concern about the quality of many of the people who stand for Local Government. When I look at how people strut around bringing nonsense proposals to the Council table without accepting the processes that Local Government has to go through to make decisions, these people bring Local Government into disrepute.
How many people, when they vote, consider the ability of the candidates whose names are in front of them in great depth?” I think I remember that person’s name” is too commonly stated. Isn’t it time that those standing for public office are subjected to some tests? Like their ability to think? Their ability to analyse. Their ability to judge what should be in front of them.
Maybe the Tuesday Club could design a test for candidates to fill in so that they could be assessed as fit for office? Or is that the task of Local Government?
Here’s the article: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/125414976/sir-tim-shadbolt-epitomises-everything-that-is-wrong-with-local-government
Changes are needed in Local Government. For instance, I would like to see the CEO as the only employee of elected Councils changed. I feel it is fatally flawed. It worried me that the CCC has been recently restructured and the Councillors had no say on what it was to be. They were just informed.
I will put it on record that in my opinion I think the new structure is flawed and is probably incapable of changing the many things which are wrong with the current institution. Elected reps were just told who had been appointed. The bulk of the Councillors had no chance to challenge the new structure. My observation is that there are thousands of great people working for CCC. However, few of them have a chance to comment on what is happening at the top, and retain their jobs.
I agree that it is time to look under the bonnet of Local Government and see what needs changing. However, I am sceptical of what and just why Central Government is focusing on Local Government. The Tuesday Club will continue to follow what is happening, and maybe Local Government elected reps might like to speak up about what is happening to them.
Leave a Reply