Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) president Lawrence Yule says his organisation is working to deliver more efficient outcomes, create vibrant communities and enhance economic growth across New Zealand.
Local government in New Zealand is committed to building strong economies and resilient communities. We do this by leading key policy work in seven areas including performance, funding improvements, and regulatory reform in coordination with central government, local businesses and communities.
I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the work local government is already undertaking that contributes to building strong economies and how local government is making this happen.
In May last year LGNZ announced a new programme of work to deliver improved performance in councils across New Zealand. The Local Government Excellence Programme seeks to lift the performance and reputation of both individual councils and the local government sector and will include commentary to the public about such matters as the sector’s fiscal strength and good financial management, which are in robust financial health.
Since our first stakeholder review in September 2012, LGNZ has taken several significant steps to rebuild and to reposition with members, stakeholders and decision-makers. In my view, local government is also taking ownership of the key issues that face it, and in doing so is strengthening our leadership and service delivery for our communities. In 2016 we have a key opportunity to strengthen our local leadership following the local authority 2016 elections.
Incentivising economic growth
Our regions have a strong role to play in New Zealand’s economic growth, with local government managing $120 billion in total equity with annual revenue of $8.3 billion. LGNZ is continuing its work to assess how the present funding framework for local government might be improved and in ways that might incentivise the right behaviour with its Local Government Funding Review research. This work is being conducted cooperatively with business and other groups.
The goal is not to increase the overall tax burden of the country. Rather we are seeking to determine whether a different mix of options might deliver better outcomes for the country. An example of this is the special economic zones idea which we are working in partnership with the New Zealand Initiative to promote.
Local government is subject to a complex set of rules and regulations, and governs and regulates citizens in a variety of ways by working closely with central government policy setters.
We have seen many examples of how the strong working relationships between local and central government policy setters has resulted in better outcomes for our communities – roading and with the Buildings (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act to name two. Local government is also committed to working with central government on any plans to amend the Resource Management Act 1991.
Other key policy areas
As part of LGNZ’s other key projects for the year ahead, good progress is being made on providing strategy and leadership via EquiP, LGNZ’s Centre of Excellence; embedding its partnership between LGNZ and the NZ Transport Agency to ensure world-class investment and service levels across our roading network; and the set up of the Local Government Risk Agency project which is gaining momentum.
The sector has also developed its 3 Waters project to ensure that top quality potable, waste and stormwater services and infrastructure continues to be delivered, as it always has been, to our communities.
We know our work in these policy areas is important and our sector’s ability to lead and to deliver on its priorities will be tested by stakeholders measuring local government’s response on issues such as productivity, rising costs, infrastructure, housing and rising sea levels.
Local government and LGNZ are working to put our communities in the best position to manage significant issues such as regional economical development, demographic shifts, climate change and the impact of technological change and global market forces. We must continue to work together as we strive to achieve improved value for money across the sector to better serve the local communities and citizens we represent.
We are committed to continuing to work closely with central government, business and communities to do this so we can deliver more efficient outcomes, create vibrant communities and enhance economic growth across New Zealand.
This article was first published in NZ Local Government Magazine’s Perspectives 2016.