Local government has such a big part to play in Marlborough’s economic development it is vital that it focuses on things that will indeed benefit the economic development of this region. This is Colin King’s view regarding the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill which will be reported to the House by 15 October 2012.
“There are many people discussing various aspects of the Bill but overall it is a piece of legislation that will put responsibility for decision-making back on the mayor and councillors. This is positive because it puts important decisions back with the community,” says Mr King.
There are three areas of governance provisions that are of particular importance when considering the Bill. The leadership roles of mayors will be strengthened in line with that of the Auckland Mayor under the Local Government (Auckland council) Act of 2009.
Mayors will be given governance powers that will align with the level of public responsibility they have for council decisions and this will support clear, strong leadership by mayors.
Elected councils will be specifically enabled to determine policies on staff numbers and remuneration, and they will be required to report annually on staff employed by salary bands.
There are also issues regarding amalgamation that will be addressed by the Bill. Some amalgamations simply haven’t happened because one area within a region has stymied the decision. The fourth area of reform in the Bill is the streamlining of local government reorganisation procedures for the union, abolition and constitution of districts and regions and the creation of unitary authorities. Currently such reorganisations can proceed only if they are supported by more than 50 per cent of the votes cast in each affected district or region, and the reorganisation involves a long and complex process.
The Bill will make it easier for communities and local authorities to apply for a local government reorganisation. “It needs to be noted that reorganisation applications will need significant community support before the commission can progress them.
“I don’t see a lot of amalgamations occurring across the country, but in Marlborough we all see the benefits in efficiency and implementation that has resulted from the creation of the Marlborough District Council,” says Mr King.
“All councils must be accountable to the public and we only need to look at the Wairarapa to see where the current Act fails. There are three councils in the Wairarapa yet the area covered by those councils is no bigger than Marlborough which is well managed by one council.”
New Zealand’s 78 local authorities deliver a wide range of critical
regulatory functions and local public services that directly impact the
lives of New Zealanders every day. “Local government is not about the
creation of little fiefdoms, rather efficient and economically sound
delivery of services and policy to the people it serves.
“The Bill will go a long way towards providing confidence and comfort to the public,” says Mr King. “After all, local government is the ‘biggest show in town.’”