Council reforms in the spotlight

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 11:17 01/08/2012

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Ensuring local government is fair, consistent and applies good governance should be the focus of upcoming sector reforms.

That is one of the key messages Tainui Group Holdings chief executive Mike Pohio will deliver at an Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) conference at Karapiro next week.

The one-day conference will discuss pressures and trends around local government as well as lessons from reforms in Auckland.

Speakers include Bob Harvey, former Waitakere City Council mayor, Mr Pohio, Waikato University professor of demography Natalie Jackson, and political and economic commentator Rod Oram.

Mr Pohio said his talk will focus on what TGH wants from local government from a commercial perspective.

"Some of the key messages will be consistency, fairness, applying similar good governance at local body level as there is in a commercial entity and ensuring policy setting matches market realities."

Peter McKinlay, IPANZ Auckland convener and director of AUT University's local government centre, said the conference aimed to raise public and stakeholder awareness of what was happening in local government as well as overseas trends.

Speculation over the future shape of local government has mounted with councils across Waikato grappling with the implications of the Government's "better local government" reforms.

To date, council leaders have shown little appetite for amalgamations and instead investigated potential savings from shared services and planning.

Mr McKinlay said Waikato gave a "very good snapshot" of the diverse challenges facing councils.

Although Hamilton's population was expected to grow rapidly, districts such as Otorohanga, Waitomo and South Waikato faced issues with declining populations, he said. "These are difficult issues and you can't sit behind a desk in Wellington and say we know the answers to issues facing South Waikato and Waitomo," Mr McKinlay said.

"Another strand which I will be touching upon essentially says the evidence about amalgamation as a way of improving local government performance is at best mixed."

Meanwhile, in its submission on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill, Waikato Regional Council said it didn't support the notion of capping rates to population growth and the consumer price index (CPI), arguing it would be constrained if it were not able to respond to local demand for services communities wanted to fund, such as flood protection and drainage works.

The IPANZ conference will be held at the Don Rowlands Event Centre at Karapiro on August 10, 8.45am to 4.30pm. For further information visit ipanz.org.nz

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- Waikato Times

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