This amendment has been causing a stir in Local Government circles over the last few weeks. At first glance it looks pretty harmless, but as people from councils around the country have been looking into it further concern has been growing about just what the government is trying to achieve.
For people interested here is a link to the DIA page which explains the amendment from the government point of view. https://www.dia.govt.nz/Better-Local-Services
This is the media release from LGNZ explaining a bit about their concerns http://www.lgnz.co.nz/home/news-and-media/2016-media-releases/local-government-bill-poses-threat-to-local-democracy/
And an article in the Times about the council’s point of view: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/82637635/southland-mps-and-councils-urged-to-fight-against-legislation-attacking-local-democracy
So what do I think?
Well it concerns me that the government has introduced this amendment with very little engagement with the sector. The government has made it clear it wants councils to engage better with its communities, yet it does not appear to be following its own expectations.
The government minister also says he believes in subsidiarity (decisions being made at the lowest possible level and closest to where it will impact) and yet the amendment potentially takes that right away from communities and gives them to the Local Government Commission.
I do agree that we need to be thinking more long term, that local government costs are rising rapidly and public expectations are also rising which creates a huge dilema for councils. I believe this dilema is best solved with quality community engagement. This is something that our council is working towards and I am pleased to be part of that process, but it is a journey and we are just at the start of it.
I also agree that council needs to consider better use of technology and innovation to address these issues. SoRDS is one tool we are currently using for this and it will help to generate ideas of new ways of doing things but as a city we need to also take a holistic look at our city and the future we want. The claim is that this amendment will help support this.
I am not opposed to the formation of CCOs – as a council we already have a bunch of them and the profit that some of them generate offsets rates which is a good thing. However I am concerned about the idea of our water being put into a CCO, especially without our community deciding that its the right thing to do. This could result in water metres which could result in higher costs for residents. Bearing in mind that a CCO has the aim of making a profit, how would a water CCO do this? And with a huge rural area in Southland one would have to ask how that would work for our region’s rural residents and at what cost and to whom?
So the council has put in a submission on this amendment. We are also running a poll to gather feedback from the community. We hope to use this feedback in our submission to the Select Committee. If you would like to share your thoughts with us about this then you can contact us on the number below on Monday 1 Aug between 8,30-5pm. If you got today’s Southland Times you will also find this information in there with a form to complete and send back if you prefer. In particular we are interested in people’s thoughts on the following 2 questions:
Do you want your water supply system owned and operated by a Company?
Yes / No
Should the poll provision (allowing a public vote) remain for a Council-led amalgamation?
Yes / No
How to send your views:
- Deliver your reply to Council at 101 Esk Street, Invercargill or the Bluff Service Centre
- Telephone 03 211 1635 on Monday 1 August between 8.30am and 5pm when elected members will be answering the phone
- Email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org