Fears for 'four wellbeings' in local body bill
The Southland District Council says Local Government Act reform will put decision-making in the hands of the courts, not communities.
The proposed changes include removing the four wellbeings to be considered by local authorities - economic, environmental, cultural and social - and replace them with the principles of local infrastructure, local public services and regulatory functions.
The district council made a submission to the Local Government and Environment select committee on the proposal, saying while it supported the principles of the reform, it did not agree with the changes in their existing form.
District council chief executive David Adamson said decisions made in court throughout New Zealand could become case law, and take away Southland ratepayers' ability to determine local government's role in their area.
Decisions made by the district council went through a consultation process, but the reform's focus on infrastructure, public services and regulatory functions could mean spending on initiatives such as a learn-to-swim programme did not fit the defined role of local government - even though many ratepayers supported its council grant of $17,000 a year for three years, Mr Adamson said.
"We don't do bugger-all that's not core service stuff anyway, but basically it just allows that community to have a little bit more of a say on what they want [council to do]," he said.
The changes could also disadvantage smaller authorities, he said. For instance, if there was a proposal to merge Invercargill city and Southland district councils, the way the act was worded now meant 50 per cent of Invercargill residents and 50 per cent of Southland residents would have to agree for amalgamation to go ahead. However, if the changes went ahead, amalgamation could happen if just the majority of Invercargill residents agreed, because of the bigger population base.
"It's big brother being able to decide over little brother."
Nine of the district council's 12 community boards and 13 of 16 community development area subcommittees (CDAs) have also made submissions opposing the proposed changes.
The Southland District Council plans to speak to its submission before the select committee later this year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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