The nation's councils have voted unanimously to lobby the Government over its proposed local government reforms.
Council representatives met in Queenstown yesterday for Local Government New Zealand's annual general meeting.
Seventy-eight councils collectively agreed to pressure the Government to keep the four "community wellbeings" enshrined in legislation. They relate to social, financial, cultural and environmental outcomes.
The Government proposes axing the community wellbeings from the Local Government Act to make councils focus on "core responsibilities" and reduce the rates burden on constituents.
However, Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said the wellbeings provided certainty for councils and helped deliver desirable outcomes to their communities.
If the Government's amendment was introduced, councils feared they would be hamstrung from serving their communities as they did now, or become vulnerable to costly legal challenges.
"[The proposed reforms] define the purpose more rigidly and run the risk that people are going to take you to court on the basis that ‘you shouldn't be doing this'.
"The current system allows councils to do most things, and they do so if their communities want them and are prepared to pay for them."
Addressing delegates at today's Local Government New Zealand conference, Mr Yule said some aspects of the reforms had councils' backing, such as improving regulation and strengthening the role of mayors.
But councils were concerned about other elements of the reform agenda. Attempts to refocus the direction of councils "fundamentally undermines the integrity of the relationship local authorities have with their communities".
"We will be asking ... that the Government keep the purpose of local government as is."
Yule also said there was "a lack of evidence" that councils' commitment to the community wellbeings had contributed to increasing rates.
Councils routinely declined poor funding proposals, he said, and had done so numerous times in their recent long term plan deliberations.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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