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Nick Smith’s genuinely radical reform – will general incompetence survive?

  • March 19th, 2012

Big ups for this one. There's little namby pamby about the local government reform package announced today.

Clients have had to blow tens of thousands in defending their communities, customers, and businesses from Council threats and depredations. They've endured cynical consultations, court cases and mind-numbing attempts to help Councillors understand the swamps of waste and patronage they've been generating.

Now to see if the government holds its nerve in the fine print.

As a constitutional lawyer, I will be specially interested in whether the admirable reinstatement of a meaningful purpose:

The Local Government Act 2002 will be amended to replace references to the ‘social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities’ (the four well beings) with a new purpose for councils of ‘providing good quality local infrastructure, public services and regulatory functions at the least possible cost to households and business.

results in the efficiency of the old 'ultra vires' action to restrain abuses of local government authority.

Comments

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  • Len Houwers
  • March 21st, 2012
  • 1:07 pm

These reforms are well overdue, but donb't know if they go far enough. I'm currently engaged in battle with the New Plymouth District Council on their new proposed LTP. Rate increases of 5.8%, 6%, and 7% in the first three years proposed to fund nice to have assets and prop up an investment fund that was supposed to deliver zero rate increases from 2015. In the meantime Councillors decided against reviewing internal waste. In a 2009 presentation on the LTP by a ratepayer it pointed to some interesting stats. NPDC staff had grown from 345 in 2001 to 515 in 2009. NPDC wage costs were 54% of rates revenue. Council officers effectively dictate the district's agenda – Councillors get involved in "information workshops" and the CEO leads the mayor, rather than the other way around. Other than the Local Government Act, the real problem is that the wrong people get elected to Council/ mayor roles. I realise that is the fault of the voters but I wonder if more could be done in legislation to strengthen the duties of elected officials as per say the Companies Act for Directors. Also whether citizens can have more powers created for them – eg recall, or initiating binding refererenda on Councillors. We need to turn things around so that Local Government fears its citizens rather than the other way around.

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