National talks about regional development, but its actions don’t match. Dunedin will not forget the closure of the Hillside Workshops. Northland celebrated decades of neglect by kicking the Nats out and choosing Peters. Rod Oram looks at the way the regions are held back in his Sunday Star Times piece (as posted on Facebook):
NZ towns and cities are stifled by government’s rejection of reform
People around the country have every right to feel they are paying too much in rates. Local government finance is broken because central government and business won’t pay their fair share. Nor will they support reforms. This is a chronic problem for all local communities, whether stagnant or declining as some provincial centres are, or booming as Auckland and Christchurch are.
The issues were laid bare, and good solutions offered, in research presented by Local Government NZ at its annual conference this week. On one hand, government is putting more demands on local councils to do the likes of upgrading wastewater treatment. Similarly citizens often have rising expectations about their communities, which would require investment to fulfil.
But on the other hand, rates cover only 49% of council expenditure across the country. Yet councils have very limited scope to raise rates or find other ways to fund the investment and services their communities want. Worse, the Auditor-General estimates council deprecation charges are meeting barely 80% of the replacement cost of ageing council assets. It forecasts that will fall to 65% by 2022, creating a funding gap of $6-7bn.
In response at the conference, Local Government Minister Paula Bennett told the councils to save money. It was clear the government is dead set against reforms to shift some of the financial burden from ratepayers to other sources of finance.
This system leaves our local communities more dependent on central government funding than any other developed country, as shown by analysis the NZ Initiative, the successor to the Business Roundtable, contributed to LGNZ’s research. …
(Read the full article for plenty more about the situation in Auckland and the increased household rates burden.)
“More dependent on central government funding than any other developed country” plus austerity measures and record government debt is not a recipe for regional development. And that’s not to mention the lack of economic diversification exposed by falling dairy prices…