Section 10 of the Local Government Act 2002 says that: “The purpose of local government is … to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities, in the present and for the future.”
Our local Councils seem to struggle with the “social well-being” part of this mandate. They shrug off this responsibility, usually saying that the matters one might reasonably consider to constitute social well-being — for example, quality housing, poverty alleviation, preventive health care, crime prevention, among others — are actually the responsibility of central government agencies and their local/regional emissaries. “Not our job,” say the Councillors.
True, of course, there are dedicated agencies for addressing these issues.
Still, the people who most need these services in Hawke’s Bay are actually members of our community … not alien wards of some foreign bureaucracies. And they are the political constituents of our local elected Councils, from whom they should expect recognition, representation and advocacy with respect to their needs.
According to documents prepared for the Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy, fully one-third of the population in the study area lives in decile 9 or 10 areas … that is, the most deprived areas.
This one-third of the population should occupy our elected Councils at least as much as local farmers, retailers, developers, winegrowers, motel operators or environmentalists.
In Napier, Pat Magill, through the Napier Pilot City Trust, has been perhaps the leading advocate trying to get his Council to front up to its social well-being responsibilities. On Wednesday, he makes a presentation to the Napier City Council on the subject, and raises issues with respect to the failures of the Maraenui Urban Renewal Trust. [Here is his presentation: Napier Offers Hope.] In this, he has the support of BayBuzz.
As we get into the election year, it will be fair to ask of Councillors and candidates: What is your view of the nature and extent of responsibility Councils hold with respect to promoting the social well-being of the community … and particularly with respect to incumbents, what have you done to meet that responsibility?