In the 1930s local governments’ share of total public expenditure was around 50 per cent. It is now estimated to sit at 11 per cent with central government allocating the remaining 89 per cent. Local Government New Zealand launched its election manifesto at the LGNZ Conference this week. With its vision of “local democracy powering community and national success” and a commitment to localism, there is a clear emphasis on protecting and enhancing local democracy. The manifesto states “New Zealand is now one of the most centralised countries of the OECD with detrimental consequences for our rate of economic growth and local empowerment. Centralised models are often characterised by ‘one size fits all’.”
Lawrence Yule, LGNZ past President, goes on to highlight that “councils have a critical role in ‘place shaping’, that is, determining the character and quality of life of the areas they are elected to govern. Their role is unique as they are the only body that has a specific democratic mandate for ensuring placed-based communities prosper and thrive”.
Most people recognise the many challenges we face here in the Far North. The third biggest district in the North Island with a very low ratepayer base (about a third of our land is in DOC estate, which is unrated), socio-economic challenges and so on. This makes affordability a real issue. We struggle to pay for the necessities let alone the extras our communities desire and deserve. One of the issues identified in the LGNZ manifesto is the legislative framework that governs councils. It is seen as “too constraining, fragmented, complex and fails to incentivise councils to innovate and invest in making their communities better places to live”. Mr Yule concludes “creating more prosperous, vibrant and resilient communities requires a stronger local government system able and empowered to address the challenges we all face. It is an issue that should concern all New Zealanders. It is a matter of urgency”.
The manifesto goes on to outline LGNZ’s strategic policy priorities, of which there are five. At a high level these include: infrastructure; risk and resilience; environment; social (for the first time); and economic (with a focus on the visitor industry).
This is an election year. I urge you to advocate on our district’s behalf with those looking to represent us at central government level. We need an incoming government committed to working more fairly and equitably with local government. We must remember that government is here to serve its people, whether centrally or locally. It is a partnership, and a vital one for the future of this amazing country. The LGNZ 2017 Manifesto makes an excellent argument. For further detail go to: www.lgnz.co.nz.