There’s a lot go­ing on

The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion -

‘Di­rec­tion of travel’ is unim­pres­sive. So said the PowerPoint slide at Mon­day’s North­land elected mem­bers’ strate­gic work­shop, part of a pre­sen­ta­tion by Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment New Zealand CEO Mal­colm Alexan­der, who was pro­vid­ing an up­date on some of the is­sues fac­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

This par­tic­u­lar slide was in re­la­tion to the ‘lo­cal­ism’ project. This, in short, is a move­ment to bring power back to the peo­ple. New Zealand, al­ready one of the most cen­tralised coun­tries in the world, is still see­ing nu­mer­ous ac­tiv­i­ties be­ing un­der­taken to bring even more lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­bil­ity into cen­tral gov­ern­ment, such as the pro­posed manda­tory cre­ation of amal­ga­mated Three Wa­ters com­pa­nies. Of six coun­tries — Aus­tralia, France, Switzer­land, Spain, Ger­many and New Zealand — this is the only one where lo­cal gov­ern­ment has no in­put into ed­u­ca­tion, health­care and so­cial wel­fare. There is lots of op­por­tu­nity in this ad­vo­cacy.

An­other topic was the big is­sue of cli­mate change adap­ta­tion. The feel­ing is that New Zealand’s risk and re­silience frame­work for man­ag­ing nat­u­ral haz­ards has a long way to go, with the prin­ci­pal is­sue around how to in­cen­tivise re­silience in­vest­ment. The key here will be to have the de­bate (and de­ci­sion re re­spon­si­bil­ity) prior to the im­pacts, rather than af­ter.

There was also an up­date on the Provin­cial Growth Fund. It con­firmed that $934 mil­lion had been al­lo­cated across New Zealand, with North­land re­ceiv­ing $103.7m, 55 per cent of which has come to the Far North. And up­dat­ing the ru­ral broad­band roll­out and ad­dress­ing mo­bile black spots in North­land — lots of pos­i­tive things are hap­pen­ing in this area.

We dis­cussed what is de­scribed as the New Zealand hous­ing catas­tro­phe. No quick wins here, sadly. It was in­ter­est­ing to note that Queens­land, with a sim­i­lar pop­u­la­tion as New Zealand, pays around a third less to build a home. No clear rea­son­ing yet as to why.

Some in­ter­est­ing work is be­ing done around so­cial and com­mu­nity hous­ing. Cur­rently coun­cils can­not ac­cess sub­si­dies for ten­ants, so some in­ter­est­ing work is be­ing un­der­taken to look at mit­i­gat­ing this is­sue, such as set­ting up com­mu­nity trusts.

Fi­nally, we had a quick chat around why rates are not in line with in­fla­tion, of­ten a real source of con­fu­sion and frus­tra­tion.

In a nut­shell, the Con­sumer Price In­dex (CPI, which in­cludes rates) is used to cal­cu­late in­fla­tion, or what a Google search de­scribes as ‘the over­all gen­eral up­ward price move­ment of goods and ser­vices in an econ­omy,’ Lo­cal gov­ern­ment has a Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Cost In­dex (LGCI), which con­firms that cost struc­tures faced by lo­cal gov­ern­ment dif­fer sig­nif­i­cantly from those cap­tured within the CPI bas­ket. The LGCI has been ris­ing at a faster rate than house­hold costs; be­tween 1999 and 2010 the LGCI in­creased by 43.9 per cent, com­pared with a 30.6 per cent in­crease in the CPI.

"The feel­ing is that New Zealand’s risk and re­silience frame­work for man­ag­ing nat­u­ral haz­ards has a long way­togo..."

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