Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill Submission

The government’s proposed changes to the purpose of local government are poorly thought through.    It especially makes no sense to change the purpose of Local Boards when they have been in existance for less than 2 years. Submissions close today. My submission focuses on the impact of the Bill on the role of local boards.

Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill Submission

I wish to make a submission on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill strongly opposing the introduction of the new purpose statement and the removal of the four well beings from the 2002 Act. I am particularly concerned about the impact of the proposed changes on the role of Auckland Council’s 21 local boards.

I make this submission in my personal capacity but draw on my experience as Deputy Chair of the Waitemata Local Board, Auckland Council in providing my comments on the Bill.

The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance identified two systemic problems – fragmented regional governance and poor community engagement. Addressing the first of these issues was the principal rationale underlying the establishment of Auckland Council, while the creation of 21 local boards as part of the council structure was the primary means of addressing the issue of poor community engagement.
Under the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 local boards are a key part of Auckland’s governance, enabling local representation and decision making on behalf of local communities. Local boards within the Auckland Council structure are best placed to understand and advocate for the aspirations of their communities.

Local boards have been in existence for less than two years and in that time have developed, following extensive consultation, aspirational plans with their communities that reflect local priorities and preferences. These plans contain a wide range of activities, some of which may sit outside the narrow focus of the new purpose statement for local boards.

For example the Waitemata Local Board plan covers a whole range of projects that could be interpreted to fall outside the proposed purpose of local boards such as local events, community gardens, fruit tree planting in local parks, support for local business associations, installation of water fountains, and community-led waste minimisation projects to name but a few.

I support the need for local government activities to be undertaken in a cost effective manner. However there is no evidence at all to suggest that the well beings have caused a blowout in local government costs.

There is also no evidence that local boards are acting ineffectively or have diverted into areas covered by central government. Most local projects are low cost but highly effective at building strong local communities. The activities of local boards complement and facilitate the role of central government and the private sector.

I am concerned that just as local boards are starting to find their feet that the proposed change to their purpose will undermine their autonomy and their ability to deliver on their communities’ priorities as set out in their three year plans. Local boards may be required to re-write their local board plans before they have been in place for even one full three year term.

Furthermore the proposed changes to the Act will undermine the Auckland government reorganisation and the concept of co-governance on which it is founded.

I therefore strongly oppose the introduction of the new purpose statement and strongly oppose a change to the role of local boards before the new structure has been fully tested and allowed to work.

I wish to appear before the committee to speak to this submission.