April 2019 - Chairman's Report

15 Apr 2019, 8:25 AM

Strategic issues

Localism

Local Government New Zealand is leading a campaign to promote more localism in local government. Compared with other Western democracies New Zealand is an outlier with a small number of local government entities compared with every other jurisdiction.

But what about the cost of local government? In spite of criticism from successive central governments about recent rises in local government rates, over the last 40 years, central government taxation has risen by approximately 30% as a percentage of GDP, whereas local government rates as a percentage of GDP have flatlined over the same period of time. Rates have definitely risen but not as a percentage of GDP. This comparison is a clear indicator of local government’s share of the economy.

Our current government promised to decentralise central government and return government to the regions. Unfortunately, their track record indicates the exact opposite! The following examples indicate what they have implemented or intend to implement:

  • Proposed centralisation of the polytechnic and vocational training sector.
  • Initiated a review of ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ reversing community governance.
  • Proposed mandatory creation of amalgamated 3 Waters companies stripping the communities who own that infrastructure of their decision-making rights and removing their property rights.
  • Initiated centralised Urban Development Authorities with powers to override council planning decisions on which the community has been consulted.
  • Ended oil and gas exploration in Taranaki without consultation.
  • Signalled centralisation of transport control and potentially abandoning the ‘co-investment model’.
  • Signalled the conferring of regulatory powers for water quality to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in competition with regional and unitary councils.

One is forced to ask what are they up to? Is this local government amalgamation by stealth?

Climate Change 

Our council is working hard on climate change initiatives which include:

  • Converting our vehicle fleet to electric vehicles (EV’s) as fast as is practicable.
  • Working with other parties to build a network of EV charging stations around the region.
  • Developing our network of flood protection structures, starting with the $15 million Kaitāia project.
  • Issuing flood maps and sea level maps as quickly as we can collate the data.
  • Initiating a joint project with MPI and district councils to carry out a LiDAR survey of the entire region to give even better contour information for planning and consenting purposes.

If councils were to be forced into the position of providing compensation for loss of property in coastal and other areas as a result of sea level rise or flood level rises, the cost would become totally prohibitive for ratepayers. It would undoubtedly be way bigger than the “leaky homes” losses. 

One of our most important roles is to provide the information on which the private sector can make its own decisions about whether or not to take the risk of purchasing and buying property that may be susceptible to increased flooding or sea level rise. That risk should not be a community risk!

District councils are in a somewhat different position because they have to create consent rules regulating where and at what level people will be able to construct new buildings. Our role in
helping them is to ensure that they have the best possible information on which to base their decision. 

We live in interesting times!