Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced an independent review of the role of local councils in New Zealand.
In her words:
“Local government plays an important role in our democratic system, giving people a voice in the leadership of their communities and in the governance of services and publicly owned assets.
“Local councils are essential to maintaining and improving our wellbeing and we need to get the right settings for them to continue delivering their important mahi.
“They are now facing a wave of reforms that will significantly affect their traditional roles and functions. They have told us the timing is right to determine what our system of local democracy should look like to make sure it is fit for the future, and I agree.
“This also offers an important opportunity to explore how we can embody the Treaty partnership through the role and representation of iwi/Māori in local government.
“I have asked the review panel to consider what local government does, how it does it, and how it pays for it. From there, they will explore what local government’s future looks like, including: roles, functions and partnerships; representation and governance; funding and financing.”
And more precisely from the Department of Internal Affairs website:
“The Minister is seeking recommendations that look to achieve:
- a resilient and sustainable local government system that is fit for purpose and has the flexibility and incentives to adapt to the future needs of local communities;
- public trust/confidence in local authorities and the local regulatory system that leads to strong leadership;
- effective partnerships between mana whenua, and central and local government in order to better provide for the social, environmental, cultural, and economic wellbeing of communities; and
- a local government system that actively embodies the Treaty partnership, through the role and representation of iwi/Māori in local government, and seeks to uphold the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and its principles through its functions and processes.”
The review is to start immediately, with an interim report on its “probable direction” by September 2021 and a draft report for public consultation in September 2022.
You can bet it is not by coincidence that the draft report would be issued a year from September – just in time to be debated by candidates standing for local body elections in 2022!
What to watch for?
This Government has shown a strong preference for centralisation, both in structure and policy direction.
Initiatives in educational reorganisation in the tech/training sector, the new health restructuring, stronger central direction on water quality, the ‘3 Waters’ consolidation of authority for drinking water, waste water and stormwater about to be announced – all of these provide evidence that this Government doesn’t rate local councils’ competencies or political courage very highly!
At the very least, there appears to be some questioning about just how many ‘cooks in the kitchen’ does a nation of 5 million really require?
BayBuzz will keep a keen eye on this ‘independent’ review!
Here is the official description of the review, the panel members conducting it, and its terms of reference.