Amalgamation aim of reform, says Shadbolt
The Government's plan for local government is being driven by its desire to see amalgamation and backed only by appeals to emotive politics, Mayor Tim Shadbolt says.
The Invercargill City Council finance and policy committee discussed its reaction to the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment, which passed its first reading last month. It plans to make a submission to the parliamentary committee which is now considering the amendment.
In its current form, the amendment would see council's requirement under the act to ensure its community's social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being replaced by more restrictive measures of performance, and give the Government the power to impose fiscal limits and benchmarks on councils, increase ministerial powers of intervention and the executive power of mayors, and change the way any votes on amalgamation would be conducted.
Any vote on amalgamating councils would require a majority of the entire region as a whole, rather than a majority of ratepayers in each district.
"The driving force, if you look at the track record, is amalgamation," Mr Shadbolt said.
It would allow a large council such as Dunedin or Christchurch to amalgamate with smaller surrounding councils to spread the debt burden imposed by the new Forsyth Barr Stadium or earthquake repairs, he said.
The Government was keen to point out extreme failures of some councils, such as Kaipara in Northland, which had been crippled by huge debts, or the money spent by Hamilton City Council on hosting the Australian V8 series motor race, he said.
"Our counter-attack should contain an equal number of central government balls ups," he said. "They spent $700,000 in Dunedin on scuttlefish or something to see why younger women are attracted to older men. We have to counter-attack at that emotional, political level."
There would be mistakes made in local government, he said, but that was not justification for some of the measures in the amendment.
Councillors and chief executive Richard King had harsh words for the amendment, which they said was based on false evidence and erroneous information.
Cr Neil Boniface said removing the requirement to ensure the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of the community would have prevented the council backing the Southern Institute of Technology's Zero Fees scheme, among many other things, while Cr Ian Pottinger said the four measures were a rare example of the previous Labour Government getting something right."Central government will not pick up responsibility [for those things] ... local government cares about our own community."
The submission will be formally considered at the next full meeting of council on July 25.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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