District council says bill is fatally flawed

Andrew Judd has labelled the Government's proposed local body amendment bill as vague, farcical and rushed.
Andrew Judd has labelled the Government's proposed local body amendment bill as vague, farcical and rushed.

Vague, farcical and rushed - the Government's proposed local body amendment bill has been given three quick strokes of the cane by New Plymouth district councillors.

Born out of popular frustrations at rate rises, local body debt and a perception councils were spending on non-core activities, councillors were last night often at odds about what the bill was even for, let alone what their submission on it should contain.

In its current form the bill would give the Government power to impose fiscal limits and benchmarks, increase ministerial powers of intervention and reduce barriers to council amalgamations.

Councillors' response to these bold new plans came down to two words; start again.

It was the fiscally conservative councillor Andrew Judd who finally stopped the confused debate on the council's submission by popularly declaring the bill farcical, rushed and vague.

"If, after having a workshop, we are still confused on what we are going to submit on, what is the outcome of this bill going to be?" he said.

For all the hype the bill had created, he said it had failed to address issues around rate rises and council spending that kicked it off in the first place.

"They have just changed words that can still mean the same thing."

Mayor Harry Duynhoven started his comments on the submission by strongly denying public accusations it was written by chief executive Barbara McKerrow to reflect the concerns of her staff. In fact, Mrs McKerrow was on leave over the period the submission was developed, he said.

For Mr Duynhoven, the changes were a frustration, coming as they did before the recently formed local government efficiency taskforce had developed its recommendations.

"I think there are many things in local government that need to be changed. But why in hell would you do the legislation and then establish the review committee," he said.

The council's submission on the bill will be sent to the Government largely unchanged from its initial form, which suggested the bill would change nothing. However, it will now also include a preamble asking the Government to scrap the bill and start again.

Councillors John McLeod and Sherril George both voted against the submission and will make personal submissions of their own.

Submissions on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill close tomorrow.

Taranaki Daily News