Decisive leadership required to improve local government services

21 Dec 2017 2:52 PM | Anonymous

MEDIA RELEASE

"Waipa District Council’s rejection of a shared water services partnership with neighbouring Hamilton City demonstrates, once again, the need for government intervention in the funding, responsibilities and structure of domestic governance," says Stephen Selwood Chief Executive of Infrastructure New Zealand.

"No fewer than four independent expert analyses of water services in the Waikato have agreed that it is in the best interests of residents of Waipa District to combine their wastewater, water supply and stormwater services with Hamilton.

"Yet at the political level, these clear, demonstrable and agreed benefits were insufficient to persuade the majority of Waipa councillors to agree to partner with their neighbours in the provision of water services.

"Despite the example set by Wellington Water, which has demonstrated significant benefits resulting from a jointly owned management company for its five council owners in the Wellington region, this latest Waipa decision puts another nail in the coffin for shared service arrangements between councils.

"The case for change in water service delivery at a national level was clearly demonstrated in Havelock North when 5000 people got sick from drinking contaminated water. The subsequent inquiry identified “widespread systemic failure among water suppliers to meet the high standards required for the supply of safe drinking water to the public”.

"Yet, almost all evidence to date, including rejection of Local Government Commission proposals for consolidation in Northland, Wellington, Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa, shows that significant change will not come from within the local government sector, no matter how beneficial.

"Local Government New Zealand's Reputation Index gives local government leadership, performance and communication a score of 28/100.

"Central government is having to constantly put workarounds in place to fix tourism infrastructure funding or growth investment financing. Auckland and other growth cities are 70,000 homes short of the number required for their populations, but they are not being built because there are not enough pipes and roads in the ground.

"Major change is needed at a national, local and regional level.

"Nation-wide functions should not be left to local government, including overall responsibility for environmental management and meeting the basic needs of New Zealanders for food, healthy water and shelter.

"On the other hand the ability of local communities to build the identity and sense of community in their local areas must be strengthened.

"And in between, there are decisions which need to be made which affect entire cities and their surrounding areas, including water, transport and economic development. These are regional in nature and require empowered regional decision making.

"Effective institutions with the resources and mandate to deliver services at the level at which they impact communities are required.

"If the new government is not prepared to lead fundamental reform itself, then a first principles review by an independent and appropriately resourced commission is the least it could do to identify solutions to longstanding deficiencies in New Zealand’s planning, funding and governance system," Selwood says.

ENDS

For further information and comment contact Stephen Selwood on 021 791 209


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