The government’s bill will further move power to Wellington. We are already a very centralised country, politically speaking, and this will give more say to central government.
Ministers will be able to dissolve councils with an Order in Council, rather than with parliamentary scrutiny, and can also delay elections easily. Similarly, amalgamations against the local populace’s will are made much easier (/possible).
It significantly reduces the remit of local government. The previous Act was lauded internationally as it told Councils to provide for “the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of communities”. The new Act changes that to “local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions”; This provision must be “in a way that is most cost-effective for households and businesses.”
The change in focus will mean that councils should no longer fund activities based on wellbeing that cannot be considered a “local public service” – with debate over what is local or public service. The focus shifts from community outcomes to the “least cost” delivery of services. It also substantially reduces the requirement for input from the community and the need for consultation.
So essentially, instead of being able to elect local people to do what we want locally, they will be proscribed by Wellington, and forced to have a remit of lower rates over better quality or quantity of services, whether locals want that or not. Central Government will be able to demand lower spending, less debt and no or very low rates increases if it so wishes.
Does this sound like local or community democracy to you? Or a power-grab from National?