Big team to local government event

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 17/07/2014

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Five mayors and council chief executives and a dozen city and district councillors from the wider Manawatu as well as Shannon and Woodville retailer Suzie Johnson are all heading to Nelson at the weekend.

They will be taking part in the Local Government New Zealand annual conference themed "Powering local economies: building vibrant communities".

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor has been part of the organising committee for the conference.

He is leading the largest delegation from the region, with the city's four new councillors - Aleisha Rutherford, Leonie Hapeta, Grant Smith and Rachel Bowen - registered for the event.

Naylor said the conference provided opportunities to learn, and that was behind the decision to send the council's least experienced members.

"One of the key pieces of feedback we get is about the opportunity to meet councillors from other areas and to learn from that, face to face."

A fifth city councillor, Tangi Utikere, is also attending for the inaugural meeting of an under-35s network on the first day of the conference.

Manawatu Mayor Margaret Kouvelis and Tararua Mayor Roly Ellis are leading teams from their councils.

And for Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson and Horowhenua Mayor Brendan Duffy there is the added kudos of their councils being selected as finalists in the excellence awards for community impact.

Key speakers at the conference include Local Government Minister Paula Bennett, who will open the event, with Prime Minister John Key and Opposition leader David Cunliffe scheduled to follow LGNZ president Lawrence Yule's address on the organisation's elections manifesto.

Manawatu's own Suzie Johnston is one of the leaders of a session on "Making localism work through innovation".

She is being billed for her experience in showing how innovative investment can stimulate the economies of small towns, through her Oosh outlets in Shannon and Woodville.

Before the conference begins, LGNZ will hold its annual meeting behind closed doors and will debate three remits.

The Kapiti Coast District Council is asking for support to shift the decision on whether or not to add fluoride to water supplies from local councils to the Director General of Health.

Palmerston North has been challenged through Annual Plan submissions to reconsider whether it should continue to add fluoride, but has not yet had that debate.

Wellington City Council is asking councils to support its request that LGNZ approach the Government to introduce a more flexible framework to assist building owners strengthen earthquake-prone buildings and meet high insurance costs.

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Hutt City Council is seeking support for its bid to ask LGNZ to develop a policy position on local government reorganisation. In their view this position should recognise the importance of community agreement before any changes to council boundaries can occur, and that proposed changes be subject to rigorous analysis of costs and benefits.

Naylor said the Palmerston North contingent had not yet decided how to vote on any of the remits.

- Manawatu Standard

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