Mayor will fight for bill change
Central Otago mayor Tony Lepper is prepared to get on the ‘‘bandwagon’’ to stand up for local democracy if reforms to local government laws ‘‘go the wrong way’’.
The Better Local Services Bill was introduced to parliament on June 9, had its first reading on June 15 and has now been referred to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee for consideration.
Under the bill, the Local Government Commission could force councils to amalgamate their services. Water supply, waste water and transport could be taken from council control and put into council-controlled organisations (CCOs).
Lepper said ’’significant changes’’ were needed to the draft bill.
‘‘The minister has promised to consult further with Local Government New Zealand on the contentious issues - the key one being that the local government commission can set up a CCO without consultation. If changes are made to some of these things then it will have gone the right way.’’
Last week, Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt called on Southland councils and members of parliament to unite and stand up for local democracy by opposing the bill, and Lepper said he was ’’well and truly prepared to join the bandwagon’’.
‘‘You have to make some noise if you think it is going the wrong way. I think we are losing local democracy...We are holding them to their word and we will wait and see what happens. But be prepared - I don’t think it is worth losing our democracy by amalgamating.’’
However, he did not think the bill was aimed at councils like Central Otago.
‘‘To be honest, I see no way of putting our water and, say, Queenstown’s into a CCO. They are too different and too far apart. We have submitted. I lack faith in that process and think other actions are more effective.’’
Last month, Local Government Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga called for greater collaboration between local councils to meet future community needs.
Daniel Dance, of Roxburgh, Jesse Dance, 15, of Roxburgh and Sarah Wright, 15, of Alexandra.