28 August 2013
Changes announced today by Minister for Local Government Hon Chris Tremain will improve linkages between councils long term asset management and strategic planning and should also lead to better quality public engagement. But to maximise the effectiveness of local authority services, development of a 30 year spatial plan to guide and manage growth should be undertaken alongside long term infrastructure investment planning, says Stephen Selwood CEO of the NZ Council for Infrastructure Development.
While long term asset management across councils is generally good, it is not uncommon to see robust plans being compromised by annual budget processes, causing projects around the country to be deferred, down-sized or cancelled in an effort to limit short term rates increases.
Consequently, we see good quality asset management practices compromised by electoral cycles, creating a bow wave of investment that future ratepayers have to meet.
The Local Government Infrastructure Efficiency Expert Advisory Group, in its report to Government released earlier this year, recommended moving to a regional planning scheme with a firm hierarchy of long and short term plans.
Thirty year spatial plans would set out a long term growth strategy. The infrastructure strategy would ensure that the investment and renewals programme supports planned development backed by good asset management practice. Council long term plans would then provide the ten year budget allocation to allow implementation of the strategy. Annual report processes would monitor progress and provide transparency to ratepayers.
The planning changes identified today will help address the disjoint between long term community and council aspirations and implementation. Better presentation of data and improved engagement processes should also help communities to participate in planning and strengthen support for investment programmes not only within but across electoral cycles, says Selwood.