This once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the machinery behind local government cannot ignore some significant challenges facing local democracy, Property Council of New Zealand chief executive Leonie Freeman says.
“(The) announcement that a review into the future of local government is welcome news for many in the property industry frustrated by barriers to growth and unleashing opportunity and potential.
“We welcome the opportunity to help shape the way our local communities are governed. It’s not only important for building houses and unlocking critical infrastructure, but it enables thriving cities and communities where people want to live, work and play.
“The status quo isn’t working. The Review Panel needs to be bold in its recommendations and not lose focus of what this is about.
“Significant issues around funding and financing should be addressed. Kiwis should not have to keep getting whacked in the wallet each year with unaffordable rates rises.
“Local authorities should have more levers and tools to fund infrastructure and development spending outside of development contributions and rates. The Productivity Commission’s report into local government funding and financing makes a series of important recommendations which we hope the Review Panel take up.
“Likewise, in many areas around New Zealand there is too much bureaucratic duplication. Amalgamation of authorities where it makes sense has to be on the agenda. At a time where the government is amalgamating health services, resource management plans and polytechs, it is a no-brainer to also look at how our local authorities could work better together and, if need be, amalgamate to achieve better local outcomes. The conversation should be about ensuring the best possible representation while delivering the services our communities expect.
“With two years until the final report will be delivered, the government needs to make sure other major reform pieces – like resource management and climate change – are aligned and avoid unintended consequences.
“Property Council wants to play a constructive, supportive role to ensure the Review Panel hears the voices and concerns of the property sector. Now is the opportunity for the future of local government to focus on the issues which directly impact our communities and work towards better local democracy.”