No matter which parties form the next Government, Infrastructure New Zealand Chief Executive Nick Leggett says they need to pick up and run with the Review into the Future for Local Government’s final report which has just been released
This review is an excellent canvass of the issues and provides a toolbox of solutions for the next Government to choose from. Unquestionably, Local Government needs change and renewal, but the answer isn’t more centralisation. Democracy must be at the heart of change, along with a drive towards localism, especially given New Zealand is the most centralised country in the OECD – bar none.
Infrastructure New Zealand is heartened that the review captures the opportunities for community voices to be strengthened through Local Government and for people to improve their local places.
If we are seriously going to build infrastructure projects that enhance social and economic opportunities for more New Zealanders, we need local leadership to develop financial partnerships through better shared funding models.
Infrastructure New Zealand has said that in the past, much of New Zealand’s infrastructure building success was locally, not centrally driven. This included early rail, bridges, roads and even the Auckland harbour bridge.
Sadly, we have lost the nation building spirit, along with the funding mechanisms for local and regional entities to drive and partner with central Government and the private sector on their projects. It’s time to restore that by building strength in regional and local communities.
Infrastructure New Zealand says that the next Government – irrespective of political stripes – should enact key parts of the review in its first 100 days of office. Infrastructure New Zealand will be adding reform of Local Government to its scorecard for political parties this election to understand how they intend to respond.
We know Local Government has been hampered by narrow revenue streams like rates – and unfunded mandates handed down from Central Government. It’s time to rebalance that and rebuild New Zealand. For instance, having GST on rates refunded to councils and linked to local infrastructure, could be game changing.
The key message in the review’s report is; don’t wait for Central Government – start thinking about how you can enhance your local influence and act more regionally to partner with central Government, iwi and business on big infrastructure that adds to productivity in the regions.
The gems in this review are too good to be lost. New Zealand is too gun-shy when it comes to change. 33 years is a long time to do nothing with Local Government. Better still, communities can drive change far better than Wellington ever will.