Local Government is a vehicle of legislation. It can be altered by Central Government at their will. Think about Ecan. Central Government is advised on Local Government issues by the Department of Internal Affairs.
I doubt if things have changed greatly since I was in Local Government. My experience of Internal Affairs (where at one stage in my life I worked in economic development) was that those who were advising Ministers knew very little about the implications on what they were advising Ministers. I also felt that Ministers seldom understood Local Government. Most MP’s see Local Government as a punching bag.
The media are, in the normal click bait manner they work in these days, focusing on the short comings of Local Government. The latest example is of the debates at Wellington Council. My observation from afar, not knowing any of the players, is that the City has a Mayor who is well outside his skill base. However, a Mayor only has the power of moral persuasion, and is one vote at the Council table, but if they can’t take their Council with them then they are a dead weight on Local democracy.
In this article https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/437036/wellington-mayor-andy-foster-announces-review-into-council-governance it was highlighted that the Minister had considered appointing an administrator to take over the Council. That is pathetic. The Councillors are having a genuine debate over policy. The Mayor is not handling it properly and the media are like a pack of blood hungry vipers, blowing what is a serious discussion into a personal fight.
Local Government is about exactly this sort of debate. Debating issues shouldn’t be all sanitised and “nice”. People need to be passionate about issues and feel free to express that passion. To have the Department of Internal Affairs over reacting to the media coverage, probably with advice on the levers Central Government has in its armoury, is arrant nonsense.
I recall many times working with fellow Mayors when they had problems. We supported each other and gave each other a safe place to consider how to handle issues. That’s what is needed right now. The issue they are fighting over is whether or not to sell off parts on the City Library to private owners. I know which way I would be fighting this one. However, that’s an issue for the local elected reps to work through. Without Central Government intervention.
Local politics is about passion. It’s about local debates. It’s about local people thrashing out local solutions. It’s often messy. Just like any family debate over a will…
Central Government should only get involved if things go seriously awry.