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Dr Muriel Newman

What Next for Local Government

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Road user charges

Last week Local Government New Zealand held its annual conference in Rotorua. The organisation represents the country’s 78 local authorities – 11 regional councils, 6 unitary councils, 11 city councils, and 50 district councils. Collectively they manage assets worth more than $120 billion, including most of the country’s roading network, water and waste water facilities, recreation and community centres, and libraries.

In 2014, local authority spending of $8.5 billion represented around 4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and 11 percent of all public expenditure. Sector debt stood at $11 billion.

As one has come to expect from local government, a key focus of this year’s conference was on new ways to increase funding. They came up with a ten point plan:

  • The establishment of “special zones” to enable new funding policies to be tested in a location or region without affecting the whole country.
  • Greater cost sharing with central government for projects imposed by the government, especially where local costs outstrip local benefits.
  • The removal of mandatory rating exemptions, so that all beneficiaries of council infrastructure and services pay their fair share – with any exemptions being the responsibility of individual councils and their communities. Statutory exemptions fall into five main categories:  conservation, health, education and other Crown land; land used for religious and charitable purposes; land used for transport infrastructure – roads, wharves, railways and airports; local authority land used for conservation and recreation; and Maori land.
  • The simplification of the rates rebate scheme – which uses a central government subsidy to help low income households meet the cost of local authority rates – to increase the uptake.
  • Better central government guidance for councils on whether to fund services using user charges (prices) or rate increases (taxes).
  • Allow councils to impose road user charges, targeted levies and fuel taxes.
  • Allow councils to retain a share of any increase in additional economic activity related to local intervention – through new infrastructure and amenities or different planning rules – to encourage councils to invest in growth.
  • Allow councils to receive a proportion of any mineral royalties attributed to local activities.
  • Allow councils to levy charges and taxes on tourists.
  • Expand the range of community amenities that can be funded through development contributions (reversing the government’s recent changes limiting them).

The President of Local Government New Zealand Lawrence Yule explained, “We are launching this plan because local government is facing unprecedented economic and demographic change and increasing community and government expectations. We need to put ourselves and our communities in the best possible position to manage significant issues such as regional economic development, demographic shifts, climate change and rapid technological advancement. We need to lead New Zealand’s communities through this change, but we need strong collaboration with Government and private sector partners. This is about leading a principled discussion with our key partners around more fit-for-purpose funding options.”

Stripping away the rhetoric leaves a blatant appeal for more sources of funding for local government – an all too familiar mantra. Instead of living within their means, many councils believe that rates are no longer sufficient for their expanded operations, and they are looking to lock in new funding streams.

Many ratepayers, however, want local government to be frugal, and restrict themselves to providing local infrastructure and services – roading, water, sewerage, rubbish, footpaths, street lighting, parks, libraries, and the like – along with essential regulatory functions.

This disconnect between the view of the public and the expansionary ambitions of many councils, was more than evident in the findings of a survey of 3,000 people across the country, undertaken by Local Government New Zealand last year.

The results were abysmal. Local government scored only 29 points out of 100 in an Overall Reputation Index, which assessed three areas of local government operation – Performance, Leadership, and Communication (weighted at 37 percent, 33 percent, and 30 percent respectively).

Council ‘performance’, which gained an average score of 28 percent, covered efficiency and effectiveness, value for money, trust to make good spending decisions, managing finances well, managers and staff doing a good job, continual performance improvement, working with other councils where relevant, and having the skills and expertise to manage community affairs.

Council ‘leadership’, which ranked the lowest with an average score of 26 percent, covered the local leadership of mayors, regional council chairmen and councillors, along with their strategies for developing prosperity and wellbeing.

Council ‘communication and interaction’, which scored slightly higher at 32 percent, involved keeping people informed, providing opportunities for them to have a say, making it easy for them to interact and engage, and listening and acting on their needs.

Essentially, the areas of local government operation that were viewed the least positively by the public all related to financial management: a lack of trust to make good spending decisions, providing good value for rates dollars spent, and managing finances well.

The simple fact is that some local councils are performing so poorly that many believe they do not deserve any additional funding.

The Minister of Local Government, Paula Bennett, who delivered a keynote address at the conference, is of that view: “The public’s expectation of local government is quite clear. They want better services, they want modern infrastructure, and they want strong leadership. The Government is aware of the cost pressures many councils face, and the Funding Review document launched this morning shows you are thinking about different mechanisms to manage growth.

“This is a conversation worth having, but first and foremost local government needs to demonstrate that it can live within its means. Ratepayers are not willing to pay more for services while they see waste. Year ending March 2015, local government wages and salaries increased 2.3 per cent, the highest since 2012, and significantly above CPI, the central government, and private sectors. And the recently released LGNZ Survey identified that local government was rated poorly on trust to make good spending decisions, value for rate dollars spent, and managing finances. I expect you to look closely at your costs and have free and frank conversations about what is driving your expenditure and whether that discretionary spend is assisting your council to achieve its strategic goals.”

The Minister’s speech was also significant in that it signalled that future reforms of local government will be structural.

She acknowledged that amalgamation did not produce the results the government wanted, with two out of three of the Local Government Commission’s regional amalgamation proposals being abandoned due to public (and council) opposition: “I will not legislate for large amalgamation. I am as tired as our communities are of having an argument over how many mayors there should be and over whom is bigger than whom and which area will dominate. I have zero interest in imposing unwanted change on you.”

It is a shame the Minister did not reach her conclusion about amalgamation before Northland, Wellington and the Hawke’s Bay were subjected to the enormous disruption caused by the Commission’s proposals. Fortunately for Northland and Wellington, the opposition was so strong, that the proposals were withdrawn. The Hawke’s Bay, however, was not so lucky.

This week’s Guest Commentator is NZCPR Research Associate Mike Butler, who is strongly opposed to amalgamation in the Hawke’s Bay – and the growth in bureaucracy that will result:

“The final structure, and by this I mean the structure that is described and illustrated in the final proposal booklet and not the positions not detailed on the Maori board and the natural resources board, is this: It proposes one mayor, 18 councillors, and 37 local board members. It also proposes a 20-person regional planning committee that has 10 councillors and 10 members appointed by iwi, a Maori board with numbers unspecified, and a natural resources board, again with numbers unspecified.

“Already there are at least 66 positions which is just one fewer than the 67 positions on the current five councils. We still don’t know how many appointees would go on the Maori board and the natural resources board. There could be a further 20 positions…

“Would this new governance structure mean cost savings for ratepayers? Again no! The likely new governance cost of this proposed structure could be $3.7-million. This compares with just over $2.5-million each year for the current five Hawke’s Bay councils…”

The Hawke’s Bay poll, to decide whether amalgamation will go ahead, will open for postal votes on August 24 and close on September 15.

So with amalgamation largely off the government’s agenda, what structural reforms are being proposed?

The new approach appears to favour the establishment of regional infrastructure services – to gain the benefits of economies of scale and eliminate the duplication of costly bureaucracies across a region. With Council Controlled Organisations (CCO) providing essential services at a regional level, the Minister believes that some regional councils could be phased out: “This might mean a CCO on water or transport across a region. It could even mean in areas that might put a number of CCOs in place for key growth and infrastructure that there is no longer a need for a Regional Council.”

The government is clearly frustrated that economic growth in many parts of the country is lagging, and feels that local government should accept some responsibility – and be doing more. The Minister stated in her speech: “Now, more than ever, New Zealanders expect you to rededicate yourselves to focusing on the issues that matter to your people, your communities. This means more jobs, sustained growth, and sensible spending on reliable infrastructure. I want local government to do more work in this space.”

But while Minister Bennett wants councils to put more effort into providing the infrastructure and services that will enable their communities to prosper, her government is failing to address the real problem – and that is Section (3)(b) of the Local Government Act 2002, which was introduced by the Labour Government to give local councils the power of general competence:

(3) Purpose:  The purpose of this Act is to provide for democratic and effective local government that recognises the diversity of New Zealand communities; and, to that end, this Act—

(b) provides a framework and powers for local authorities to decide which activities they undertake and the manner in which they will undertake them;

Assuming a level of general competence from local councils was clearly an optimistic but unrealistic ideal. Instead, many used their new powers to expand their activities into areas unrelated to their core functions. This marked the beginning of a long-term rise in expenditure and debt for many councils – resulting in an increase in the upward pressure on rates.

However, rather than repealing Section (3)(b) of the Local Government Act, to restrict the functions of local government and curb its expansion into inappropriate or wasteful areas, National has opted to leave the power of general competence intact. In other words, instead of tackling such contentious issues head on, the Minister appears to be preserving the jobs and status of local mayors on the one hand, while taking away council responsibilities on the other – presumably in the belief that the less responsibility they have, the less they can get wrong.

But what do you think?

Do you believe constraining local government and forcing them to live within their means is the right approach, or do you support their call for more funding sources? Share your views through the comments section of this week’s poll and we will send them on to the Minister of Local Government for her consideration.


In response to the call by local government for more funding, do you agree their sources of funding should be expanded, or should local government learn to live within its means?  

Vote x 120

 *Poll comments are posted below.


*All NZCPR poll results can be seen in the Archive.


Click to view x 120


Local governments need to operate like any business and work to a budget based on income Time for a change in Auckland and other districts. Ken
The more money these councillors think they can take from rate payers, the more they will try to take. Jihn
For a long time now I have the feeling that councils have become and are run like little fiefdoms. Since local councils have been transformed into ” local government’ funding required for running these outfits have increased dramatically. In my area the CEO of the local council has a salary of about $ 300K per annum. This is nothing short of obscene. Re rates :I am living on less than $ 20 K pa and do receive a rates rebate of $ 610 pa .Last year an increase of $ 5 was added to this rebate but rates increased by 3,7 % . These increases are repeated automatically year by year and that money is not reflecting equal improvement in services or infrastructure.Instead we are double charged on things like rubbish bags ( despite the fact that we are already paying for this Important service already as part of our rates) Not to mention that we are charged GST on what is nothing but a tax. I heard that Australian councils do not charge GST on rates!! In short –.Councils should be scaled back to what they originally were supposed to do and should not be involved in local politics either ( ie Maori seats on Councils and similar undemocratic nonsense) And we would save a lot of money instead of feeding a increasingly bloated moloch putting financial pressure on low income people like myself Michael
Without question local government MUST learn to live within its means. Councils seem to think they can do as they please without any need to operate within a budget. It would seem that it is not just the citizens who get oppressed by local government. This week a Tararua District councillor announced his resignation from council citing bullying and abuse from the chief executive and the mayor. The councillor stated that he was sad to leave, but felt he had to. He believed because he questioned council actions, he was targeted. He further stated councillors are able to ask questions and have those questions answered. Questions were actively discouraged. The councillor claimed, as an example, that the chief executive would speak over him during meetings, but would not elaborate on further cases. He appealed to the mayor to deal with it. The mayor did nothing. Ernest
I’m sick of the over spending that councils do. I’m a pensioner and I HAVE to live within my meagre means. I can do it so why can’t they? Rosemary
Councils must learn to live within their means. To many people in Council have grandiose ideas as to what their role is when the Councils job is merely to provide services and amenities, not be the next tier of Government and provide social services etc. They are far to rapacious in their demand for ratepayers money and totally irresponsible in the way that this money is spent. Allam
Too much “empire building” being allowed. Ken
The given responses are not adequate for the question. I do believe that LG needs new sources of funding but not so that can go on with profligate spending. The rating system should be replaced with an income tax for local government, set by some kind of independent body and the funds distributed based on the payer’s declared place of residence so as to accommodate people working in one jurisdiction and living in another. As for companies, their tax should be assessed on their gross income before any deductions so that they cannot declare a loss and thus avoid the tax. This would mean that all entities, human and otherwise, who are earning money, would be assessed for contributions to local government. Also, a payer’s local government tax would be deducted from total income so that that portion of income would not be double taxed, and of course, as it is openly a tax, it would not attract GST. Anthony
I am sick of the usurious increases in rates. These are crippling people and totally out of control. Gil
With inflation levels only slightly above zero Local Govt, should go back to basics and limit rate increases correspondingly. Colin
Typically, the local authorities hae ambitions that are not shared by the majority of rates payers. They should look to a more equitable method of collecting monies from all residents except continually raising the rates of ordinary property owners. As an example, the house opposite me has a mum, dad and eight adult children plus some others. All have cars that use the roads, the water system, the sewerage system the fire service and many other facilities. The rates my wife and I pay is more than them and we have one car and use few of the facilities. How can that be fair? It is not!! Derek
Repeal sec3(b) of the Act. Robbie
Like any household or business , Councils MUST work withing their means. and Not be Raizing debt burden against future ratespayers. Don
It is well overdue for councils to start living within their means.  Ratepayers have not got bottomless pockets. Carroll
And keep the core infrastructure. Too much of rates are spent on entertainment or recreational facilities or activities. Fiona
Mainly yes. A little no. It is a lot harder on the inside than appears from the outside. Looking from the outside doesn’t give an accurate view of the needs and stresses of local government, so panders to ignorance. Jack
While they should be ensuring that they be responsable and ensure they don’t waste ratepayers had earned money.  It is essential that some more equable way of funding is found.Rates are a very unfair way to collect funding.If you look at what percentage of the population of any locL body area there is a surprisingly small number that pay rates and the amount paid has no relation to the ability to the actual ratepayer to pay.The ability for the ratepayer to have any say on how their rates are used is also of concern. No matter how much the ratepayer pays they only have one vote in electing the people onto the council (and in many cases they don’t have don’t get any vote, there are many ratepayers who pay very high rates but as they do not live in the area they own the rateable property they are not eligible to vote so when it comes to spending the rates they have paid it is often the case that these will be spent on things that the majority of people feel they would like but are not really necessary. Bryan
The waste of public money in this country demands a thorough investigation. Councils dominated by inept and totally unsuitable people, more interested in puffing up their already bloated ego’s than running an efficient operation based on economic care and financial proficiency. Quite incapable as displayed by their lack of intelligence. David
Local government in NZ is in dire need of substantial reorganisation. The structure of councils needs to be more closely aligned to give them greater responsibility to be directly accountable to the people they represent. At present ANY questioning of a council’s performance is almost always taken to be a personal attack and so often ratepayers are regarded by council staff as ‘the enemy’ and to be resisted at all costs. The very basis of the rating system that means that people who pay the most-often in rural areas-get the fewest services. People who live in country are penalized because they often live on their business. There needs to be a fundamental change to this system which is grossly unfair. The low and declining voting rates in local government demand a better system. Roger
Contain council activities to water supply, sewage, footpaths and street lighting. Rubbish disposal could be sold off along with libraries and art galleries. I think it would take a massive economic recession to bring this about. In the meantime we continue to do nothing and allow ourselves to be further enslaved by our local district councils. (Their Russian name is soviets.) Don
This question is a bit like, how do we teach our children in schools, isn’t it? Let’s get back to basics and look at what we really want from our council. We want the basic services dealt with properly and economically. When so much of my money goes to the council, I expect the council to use it FRUGALLY. I want value for my money, not wanton wastage on dumb arse projects designed to make someone look good. Neil
There will never be enough for them. Mal
Greece. What else do you need to say? Len and Penny must have mentors in Greek government. Spendthrifts, wastrels and oxygen thieves – both of them and all their council pals, local boardies and council lackies. Grow a spine, Len & Penny, and f### off. We neither need nor want your lack of fiscal prudence. Mark
The waste is incredible. Every year on roading they redo roads in perfectly good condition so that they can get more money or lose nothing the following year. Deborah
No. There is too much reckless spending with other peoples money. Mike
Local govt is a disaster. They are able to raise rates every year-imagine if other taxes were raised every year. And they fail to deliver the core services which is their main responsibility. Ratepayers have no faith in the system & believe decisions are made by staff and not the elected councillors. Its a farce! Thats why people do not bother to vote. Jenny
No mention of the anomaly of paying GST on rates, a double whammy as rates are classifie as a tax so we pay a tax on a tax – or has this issue been swept under the carpet? Don
Purpose of central and local government must be their core role of “service” not business ownership and or profit. All facilities which give profit must be supported by those who use and profit from the facility. All infrastructure costs provided by government both central and local must be proportionately born by the user. All government undertakings must be based on a majority decision of tax and rate payers. Not by the noisy minority. John
I am upset that the expected efficiencies of size have not come to pass. They need to stick to core services and drop the glamour projects. Live within their means I say. Jock
They need to change rather than expand funding. Should not be based on property values. Give them a % of GST if necessary, but do it on a pro rata basis in line with services actually used by each person. Current system is totally unfair. Councils should stay out of socialism and only provide essential services. Geoff
Rates are no more than a wealth tax. Giving a free ride to those who do not own property. Many council projects, Len Lye gallery in New Plymouth for example, are no more than Mayoral monuments, & should be payed for by all who go through the door, not the rate payers who may or may not be interested in such things. In other words, user pays should be adopted far more than it is. A.G.R.
They should live wit in there means, First reduce the Local staff, cut CCO out of a job & cut the 1700 staff at Auckland that get paid $100,000 a year down to 60k, then we will get some results, hand more over to private firms with very tight contracts, Get rid of Mayors, have a real business person run the Councils. Geoff
Local authorities need to define their key functions, appoint top people to manage each function, allocate a set $$$ to achieve the desired outcome/value; but keeping within an acceptable top $$ spend for the local authority, as oK’d by their stakeholders eg. ratepayers!!! Eric
They are there for core service not to form mini dictatorships. John
It’s so easy to spend other peoples’ money. Councils should live within their means, just like everybody else has to. Ratepayers can only bleed so far. Axe inflated salaries for a start. Sheila
Spend on infastructure not projects for empire building. B& L Craig
Learn to live within its means. Jack
Too many people have grandiose ideas when they stand at elections. Els
Sick of Auckland Council’s money garbing for items that not not matter. The waste within council with staff appears to be exessive. Martyn
The more you give them, the more they will want. We are taxed enough. Frank
The sacking of the Kaipara District Council and replaced with commissioners is a case in point, and that goes for the national government as well, but who can we get to sack them? KIevan
Just like every business and household has to do, live within their means. Do not expect central government or their shareholders (ratepayers) to pay more and more each year just to finance their grandiose nice to have schemes. Stick to the essentials and resist amalgamation.. Rog
And no undemocratic hangers on in the form of maori boards,i am gobsmacked that another 60 odd council positions would be made for them! David
Amalgamation scares me because of the unlimited number of Maori that can be appointed by Iwi and so have too much power in Council such that spending could be unduly weighted towards Maori issues. We are getting more and more Maori bias every day always with wanting to have access to as many $ as can be screwed out of any source. Peter
The more they get the more they want. It is time for Local Government to return to the provision of essential services. Instead of rate increases they should be looking at reducing costs. Central Government mandated functions should be either funded by Central Government or shared amongst councils. Outside of City Councils (and even sometimes within) a roading inspector – for example – should /could be a specialist in either urban or rural roads. When urban and rural areas exist in the same area neighboring councils could share inspectors. Airlines do it (Code sharing) and make a profit why not councils and let ratepayers ‘profit’. The Greater Auckland Plan saw massive burgeoning of beaurocrats. It just doesn’t work to anyone’s advantage. Peter
Hospitals and schools are forced to live within their means, so should local governments. Fiona
I have always questioned why there is a need for a separate regional council as well as a local council. Surely one body could better manage the affairs of the area concerned. All council spending should be up for review by each incoming council. Expenditure should not roll over just because it has always been done that way. Councils should priotise their spending within the budget cap and always be looking for ways to keep their spending in check and even approach each review form the point of view of reducing the overall expenditure. yes live within their means. Ray
They should get back to looking after the basics of which they were elected to be in charge.. David
They should be restricted to rate increases that do not exceed the annual cost of living increase. Terry
As we all have to !! Peter
The analogy here is the alchoholic in charge of the bond store. David
Local government should live within its present means, rates, and increases in rates should be no greater than the rate of inflation. This is easily manageable if councils confine their expenditure to the traditional infrastructure and cease paying unrealistic salaries and salary increases to ineffective fat cats, like CEOs and mayors. Further, as far as rates go, a sharp knife needs to be taken to the list of exemptions from rates. There is no justification for exempting government, religious, or Maori land from rating. Robin
Local Government should live within its means. Abolish Resource Management Act and put in place a series of requirements to all NZ buildings. I am knee deep in struggling to get 2 projects off the ground. 3rd resource consent exceed cost of building. Heard of a person paying $30,000 to council. Rodney
Poll tax… Chris
Current levies / rates and taxes are already excessive. John
I find it amazing and troublesome that elected local authorities can at their sole discretion live beyond their means – and unilaterally tax ratepayers to carry the extra.. Stuart
Councils should stick to providing infrastructure and associated services. Auckland is frittering away an enormous amount of money on excessive staff numbers and salaries. Racial biases and self praising printed material. Peter
20 years in Local Government tells me that the more money they get the more staff they employ to find ‘things to do and more policies to reinvent’. At least 70 Terratorial and Regional Authorities in NZ all delivering the same services for a total population no bigger than Sydney. Maureen
Local politicians persist in inflating their role by meddling, expensively, in numerous things that are none of their business. Relying on their common sense or self-restraint is pointless. To bring them to heel the government needs to repeal Section (3)(b) of the Local Government Act. John
They need to concentrate on providing essential services only. Fraser
They should stick to their basic services and leave such things as Community activities to independent & Church Community Groups as in the past also social housing should not be their responsibility. David
Once they prove they can live within the current funding, for a minimum of 5yrs,then new funding options should be explored, like those who don’t pay rates but use rate funded services pay a fee for such use. The rules around voting for amalgamation must revert back to the previous majority in the effect Council area. Govt must stop the HB referendum now, it is undemocratic to those ratepayers in each area effect. Why listen to Mr Yule he can not even manage his own councils debt reduction -He should move to Auckland -Yea right!! Only has added to it!!! Kevin
They have become too top heavy and involved in things that really could well be left to others. Peter
Stick to their core business and live within their means. Dennis
Non too soon! Roy
And sooner the better. Mark
Cut the cloth. Ranald
No change. David
Councils are largely super inefficient and the people who work therein are often too young and too stupid to recognise that their ridiculous rules are creating huge and wholly useless and unnecessary expenditure to local business and are turning off investors who would otherwise look at starting new businesses in the regions. I was quoted a recent example of the owner of an industrial building who wished to add a lean to extension to his building, racking up $10,000 Council charges in the process of trying to get a consent for the project. Mostly because of wet behind the ears council employees applying foolish misinterpretations of poorly drafted local bylaws. Every delay costs valuable time and money. This is a fact that is poorly understood and wholly unappreciated by overpaid, dopey and/or officious council employees. Dianna
We wear o/k before the allegation. Richard
Auckland is the perfect example of an amalgamation that sent spending totally out of control while essential services and infrastructure have been neglected in excessive expenditure on such things as Maori representation, the underground rail loop which will not improve regional public transport or decrease motorway congestion, along with many other fringe spending intended to try and hood wink Aucklanders and others into thinking the Mayor and his councillors are the best thing since sliced bread. John
There is too much waste of rate payers monies and they should be trying to find ways of reducing rates rather than continuously increasing property rates which where they will try and pluck the money from. Roy
Councils right across NZ have been increasing rates at a greater than inflation for years they have reached the end of the road. Les
I go one step further reduce there funding New Plymouth had a 6.8% increase in rates. what is inflation at the moment 1 %? Michael
Cent Govt has cut roading funding, guess what our rates have gone up, we are now a province of cows and milk tankers, guess how many transport trucks are using the road, guess which way r & m is going to go. Wayne
Pretty much everyone in New Zealand, including the Government (once Labour had been kicked-out), has learned to live within their means since the global financial crisis …. the one EXCEPTION is local councils. They seem oblivious to the whole concept of cutting costs – particularly the Auckland Council which seems to be living in cloud-cuckoo-land and as if there is no tomorrow. Perhaps the problem is the phrase “living within their means”. The councils seem to think screwing ratepayers over and over again with massive rates rises is living within their means – after all, the councils have the means to force ratepayers to pay no matter how outrageous the demands. As for Council Controlled Organisations – could the name be further from the truth? Auckland Council might OWN these organisations but it is quite clear to me that they have no CONTROL over them. The sooner the councils are made to tow the line the better! Gary
Essential infrastructure maintenance is all that Councils should be concerned with and even then to constantly look at better & more economic ways of doing it. Eric
Typical Losers who are running this country . Disgusting No one seems to have the guts to say enough is enough.If you try and point it out you are labelled a stirrer. Greg
There’s a great deal of empire-building in local government, and too little accountability to the ratepayers. Restructuring plans are a Trojan horse to establish more anti-democratic Maori separatism. Graham
They should concentrate on the delivery of CORE services. Rates need to be REDUCED. John
They should concentrate on the delivery of CORE services. Rates need to be REDUCED. John
If Dunedin is anything to go by they should live within their means. The 4 local councils that were forced to amalgamate into the present blundering Dunedin City Council in 1989 were efficiently run and gave ratepayers a good deal for their rates. The present DCC wastes lot of money on cycle ways for a very few cyclists. Builds street bulbous curbs that emergency vehicles can no longer get round just to shut up our idiot greenees who drive sane people nuts. Colin
There was a suggestion “to impose road user charges, targeted levies and fuel taxes” to reduce rates. Rates are a form of “tax”. Which of the above is not “tax”! Whoever wrote this must be awfully stupid. There is only one way to hold tax levels and that is not to impose more taxation, but to be fair honest inflation would need to be considered. George
Time they pulled in their horns. Fiona
Porirua is a prime example of waste and “we are going to do it” whether you (the ratepayer) likes it or not. We should shoot the lot and start again. Benjamin
Our elected counsellors seem to be getting greedier every election. Malcolm
I’m absolutely fed up with my local council, Wellington City Council continually pushing up rates to pander to their pet projects like bicycle tracks and increasing their own pay packets and introducing this so-called “living wage” with no provision for increased productivity! Rayward
Yes – but not additional to the land based rating system. It is unfair, too narrowly based, discriminates against homeowners in favour of business, antiquated and out of date. It is unaffordable for many, and should be replaced by an income based system that would be affordable by all. LGNZ and central govt. politicians have grossly failed the public, and a real change is long overdue. Richard
It’s about time central govt directed these councils to stick to the basics. In Marlborough our council appears to be on a spending spree, libraries, sorry hubs, bus shelters at $200,000 and $300000 each, theatre we will ever fill, another town centre tart up in Blenheim and Picton – the list goes on and the ratepayers are being committed for ever to propping up these extravagances. We will soon be renting our homes from the Council. Carolyn
Local Govt should on;ly deal with core infrastructure and regulatory requirements that are imposed by Central Govt. Central Govt should have to fund the expense of their regulatory requirements from out of their coffers. Trevor
1 Councils are businesses and need to act accordingly. 2 Councils are taking on debt like there is no need to pay it back. Interest on debt can cripple businesses financially and limit options, – councils are not exempt. John RL
Councils need to be told again & again by ratepayers that they should “stick to the knitting” not hive off into social welfare & social engineering. Don
We are most of us already heavily taxed by central government so we are already over taxed. Now we are supertaxed by local government and I am sick of it. It will only get worse following Rotorua. Ray
As individuals we live within our means or end up with an unmanageable burden of debt. Councils must learn to do the same and stop building ivory towers. If they cannot work within these constraints, they should stand aside and let other people who are more capable do the work. Peter
Local government no longer ‘does’ just footpaths, water, sewerage and rubbish. It is expected to build and maintain things like sports grounds, concert halls and parks and so on. It needs a wider source of income from land presently unrated and one of the most important untapped sources, young working people who do not own property. They are the greatest users of sports grounds, bike trails, entertainment venues, and roads. They can be taxed through a number of means, including the IRD. The bureaucracy in particular, needs to reduced especially the self elected Maori ‘representatives’. Chris
Councils cannot be allowed to just simply keep on putting rates up year after year regardless of how small the % rise is. Ratepayers on fixed incomes, which is significantly increasing in numbers, just can’t afford to keep on Paying. Robert
Auckland Council is out of control, for many reasons, poor leadership by elected members, not sticking to basic core responsibilities, allowing Council owned entities to override the democratic process, no transparency. Too many departments that bring little value to local residents, an inequitable rates system, the list goes on and on. Robert
I basically believe that Councils should learn to live within their mean, the same as the most of their rate-payers have to. I do not object, however, to” special project”, limited time expansion in a basically “user pays” system (like the NZTA Northern Toll). Ted
Paula please legislate what is core business for councils and then they would have to stick to it. We have 29 employees on the auckland council for maori issues. Most for superstition and myth for which we as rate payers fork out mi.llions and thats just the tip of the waste. Please will somebody with the slightest iota of common sense do something about it. Dene
The extravagance of Auckland Council and the incompetence of staff from top to bottom is mind boggling. The Presidential style of the voting is ludicrous. I have just returned from the UK where the Portsmouth Councillors are voted for but the Councillors then choose the Lord Mayor. This is of course the same as National appointing John Key and /or replacing him as decided Caucus. David
Aucklanders had no say in the abortion that is our “Super” city, and it’s been an absolute disgrace. The law Labour passed and National upholds allowing Councils (or in the case of Auckland the Mayor and his followers)to virtually spend money on whatever their pet project is, is a disaster for ratepayers. Until we have a government which actually cares about what is happening to it’s citizens we will continue to be squeezed for every last cent. Lorraine
Unfortunately ‘their means’ extends to increasing levies on ratepayers to fit local authorities wish lists, in spite of the lecture apparently given to them by the Hon Paula Bennett at the conference. Ron
I don’t agree with amalgamation but councils need to live within their means. They should concentrate on their core business which is infrastructure, ie: sewerage/drainage, waste management, footpaths/roading etc. They should not be wasting on flights of fancy. The basic recipe is rule by the people for the people. Both local/central government seem to have forgotten this basic mantra which justifies their existence. Kevin
In saying that, I want to see equality of outcomes for all areas – in my case outside the Urban Hub of Auckland where we have not electrified trains – just dirty old diesels that break down or don’t have the crew to get them past Papakura. We have plastic bags for out rubbish not wheelie bins. The Southern Motorway over capacity. We all knew that the Auckland Council was only set up for the CBD (as has been proven) and those of us who fought through the amalgamation hearings completely ignored. DON’T let them do it in your area of NZ if you are outside the main areas. Disaster and who is going to fix it for us? Di
Get rid of the deadwood. Barry
Councils should star by cutting back excessive staff and the big salaries, reevaluate their unnecessary wasteful ambitious spending. IAN
I live in a small town with an ageing population and a declining population but yet our council continues to spend money as though it was going out of fashion they seem to think we need the inferstucture of a town 3 times as big as the retires increase rates will become unaffordable so time there was some restriction on councils to curb there spending as they propose to increase and double the dept over the next 10 years. Russell
They won’t. Edward
Councils are far too eager to fund things they were never designed to fund, their employees are over paid, under worked and most have no or little qualifications to do the job they’re employed to do. Not to mention most of them have their own agendas and reasons for being there. Stevo
They are so imbured by Socialist principles and the uncontrolled use of other peoples money that mjor change in every respect is the only way their problems can be solved. Allan
Keep down the enormous salaries of some of these Council Executives. Ian
The rates system and any others should be eliminated and replaced with one single expenditure tax payable by EVERY legal entity to fund central and local government. Parkinson’s Law …. expenditure rises to meet income! No INCOME tax! William
Too much waste and poor performance. Mark
No they waste too much of ratepayers dough on white elephants that produce no return, especialy red tape saleries for local body drongos, just the same as in central govt. James
An easy question to answer. Of course they should monitor their spending on all the nice to haves and pay more attention to the jobs they are elected to do More funds would only perpetuate the extravagance. Trevor
I feel that they should live “Beneath their means ‘They already have overblown budgets and non community profit schemes in place – Peopel and enviroment fist – not enlarged ego’s and empire building. John
Councils have shown themselves to be inefficient, and wasteful, a bureaucracy which cannot manage itself let alone its area of responsibility. They are a self indulgent drain on public finances. Small is better every time! Peter
Something the Mayor of Rotorua promised in her Election Manifesto, but forgot all about once in office. Sylvia
No involvement is justified in council activity on non core roles. Vern
The sense of entitlement in the modern age is so strong that real fiscal disasters are coming! By learning to live within their means, it will prevent a worse crisis of debt in the future. Hilary
It is staggering that local governments can just raise the rates when ever they runout of money without a proper vote from the rate payers .Look at some of there excesses eg Len Browns new office. Jock
The whole Local Govt is one of excess. It is based on the concept of the way the top salaries are set by the ‘independent authority’ That is when turnover goes up so do the salaries! There is no audit for efficiency! Ian
Governments everywhere, local and federal, need to be scaled back and we, the people, to step up and be more responsible for our own welfare. Celia
Have a good look at some CEO wages. Are them really worth what they are paid. Jim
The Councils should be required to have a public vote by survey on all major expenditures over 100,000. Inclusive of salary increases. Jim
Local Govt bureaucracy is already totally out of control. More money = bigger bureaucracy, bigger salaries and even less ratepayer input or control. As it is the councillors we elect are to a large extent, as laypeople, ignorant of the rules and technicalities of local government administration and are easily led by the functionaries for whom we all have to pay. Alan
Local government is a disgrace. They should be stripped of their powers of general competence and forced to focus on the basics. That is the only way that they will ever live within their means. Jason
Some of the funding recommendations are sensible, but councils must be forced to perform better through government regulation. Roger
Absolutely local government must be reigned in! So many councils are just incompetent, not to mention bloated. It is difficult to find anything good to say about most of them. David
Unfortunately good councils are outweighed by the poor ones, so government needs to step in. I still think the powers of general competence should be removed. Raewyn
If councils just stuck to their knitting – roads, rubbish, sewerage, and so on, as well as consents – then surely they couldn’t go too far wrong. Brian