A ‘de­press­ing sce­nario’ for ratepay­ers — Feds

The Northland Age - - Local News -

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers says a re­turn to a looser leg­isla­tive man­date for lo­cal govern­ment ac­tiv­i­ties presents a “de­press­ing sce­nario” for those who will foot the bill — ratepay­ers.

Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Katie Milne told Par­lia­ment’s Ad­min­is­tra­tion Se­lect Com­mit­tee last week that farm­ers were deeply con­cerned that pro­posed changes would give im­pe­tus to higher lo­cal govern­ment spend­ing and rates.

The Lo­cal Govern­ment (Com­mu­nity Well-be­ing Amend­ment) Bill also put the cart be­fore the horse, given that the Pro­duc­tiv­ity Com­mis­sion had not yet be­gun its lo­cal govern­ment in­quiry.

“Park this bill at least un­til the com­mis­sion has done the grunt work and sorted out the driv­ers of coun­cil spend­ing, and rec­om­mended how coun­cils should be funded in fu­ture,” Ms Milne said.

The fed­er­a­tion be­lieved the vast ma­jor­ity of ratepay­ers favoured the cur­rent pur­pose state­ment for lo­cal govern­ment, to pro­vide good-qual­ity lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture, lo­cal pub­lic ser­vices and leg­isla­tive func­tions “. . . in a way that is most cost-ef­fec­tive for house­holds and busi­nesses . . . ,” whereas the bill pro­posed a re­turn to their pro­mot­ing of the so­cial, eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal and cul­tural well­be­ing of com­mu­ni­ties, with no men­tion of cost-ef­fec­tive­ness.

The last time the ‘four well­be­ings’ were in the act (2002-2012), lo­cal govern­ment rates rev­enue had rock­eted by 94 per cent, when in­fla­tion was 28 per cent.

“Since the re­moval of the four well­be­ings, growth in spend­ing and rates has mod­er­ated sig­nif­i­cantly, de­spite stronger pop­u­la­tion growth,” Ms Milne said.

“De­spite some crazy ideas, like Ro­torua’s in­fa­mous Mud­topia de­ba­cle, the sig­nal from the act’s cur­rent pur­pose state­ment has gen­er­ally helped to fo­cus coun­cil be­hav­iour. How­ever, in this year’s round of long-term plans we are start­ing to see some creep back; per­haps coun­cils have been en­cour­aged by the sig­nals they are get­ting from govern­ment and this bill.”

The orig­i­nal ‘four well­be­ings’ leg­is­la­tion had also in­cluded a ro­bust con­sul­ta­tive regime, which was miss­ing from the cur­rent bill.

“With weak com­mu­nity en­gage­ment pro­vi­sions, and no re­la­tion­ship with fund­ing, the re-in­ser­tion of the four well­be­ings is flawed and risky,” she added.

“Ratepay­ers can­not af­ford for us to go back to the out of con­trol spend­ing and rates in­creases of the 2002 to 2012 decade.”

She also re­ferred to the Lo­cal Govern­ment Busi­ness Fo­rum’s re­port on coun­cil fund­ing, not­ing the growth in non-core vs core spend­ing over re­cent years, and con­cern that the bill would ex­ac­er­bate that trend.

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