BOP Regional Council Chairman
It is not often that all of local government disagrees with central government proposals.
At the Local Government Conference last week it was unanimously voted by all New Zealand’s 78 councils: “That the purpose of Local Government as set out in the Local Government Act, 2002, be retained.”
Broadly, under the 2002 Act, the current position covers the social, economic, cultural and environmental well-being of communities, which are consulted on with the community and then form part of the council’s Annual and Ten Year Plan documents.
The change suggested by Central Government is to replace those four well-beings with a new purpose of providing good quality local infrastructure, public services, and regulatory functions at least possible cost to households and business.
“….least possible cost to households and business. ”
The words look fine until you attempt to define what is least possible cost, i.e. who makes that decision and on what parameters?
At the very least it raises for the first time the principles of ultra vires activities, legal liability, the possible high cost of judicial review of almost any decision whether building a road, as to the quality, and or type of material, the provision of services and the levels of community consultation, to what is least and what is too much.
We all applaud and support the leadership of Central Government within the framework of Better Local Government, and a review is well overdue.
We can and we must do much better to reduce costs to the ratepayers. However we do need to be careful of unintended consequences or to overreact to activities of a few councils that may have overstepped the mark with either its debt levels or proposed activities.
In our case, the regional council, I believe that we are good financial managers and that we are prudent in our expenditure.
But I doubt if we could honestly sign off ‘at least cost’ on almost any activity, as we cannot measure what is essentially an opinion.
If you have a view on this or on any other regional council issue, please e-mail me email@example.com