Hamilton stays with LGNZ, Auckland bails
Hamilton won’t be following in Auckland’s footsteps and leaving Local Government New Zealand, at least while mayor Paula Southgate has a say.
Auckland’s mayor Wayne Brown used his casting vote for the first time, pulling Auckland Council out of the sector group Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) on Thursday.
Southgate’s disappointed Auckland has decided to leave as she believes LGNZ has offered great value to Hamilton City Council for its $90,000 membership and to other councils up and down the country.
‘‘LGNZ runs training for newly elected members, and training for newly elected mayors, and I have to say Mayor Brown was the only mayor that did not attend the mayoral induction in Wellington.
‘‘But we were all there learning off each other, helping each other grow into the job. And I found that very beneficial.’’
She said that there are the benefits of sharing your success, failures, learnings and ideas with councils around the country. It’s all part of a big forum which helps each other out. So I think it’s disappointing that the biggest city in New Zealand doesn’t have a voice in that forum.
‘‘They’re not going to share what they know, what they’ve learnt, and they will be on their own.’’
Southgate sits on a number of advisories within LGNZ including the metro sector group, which involves all the big cities.
’’We talk about big city issues, we get experts to talk to us. We are also able to lobby the Government collectively about the big city issues. It opens the doors to cabinet ministers in particular for direct conversations.’’
Brown had called for a review of Auckland’s membership, which costs around $400,000 a year in membership and conference costs, and spoke disparagingly of its value.
He said his band had played a conference, and at a past one in the Bay of Islands ‘‘watching 800 members of local boards getting pissed and dancing the night long for no benefit to ratepayers questioned my value of it’’.
There has since been questions over whether Northland had hosted a LGNZ gathering that large in Northland. For the year 2022-2023 Hamilton City Council’s membership fee was $89,986.76.
When questioned on the conferences Southgate said in her 25 years in politics she had been to around eight of them and learned something every time.
‘‘They bring in international expertise on topics. They also showcase the very best of local government, plus they canvas the top political issues of the time. We’ve talked about all kinds of things from affordable housing to climate adaptation to community facilities, diversity in New Zealand, all kinds of things get covered off during the conference and gives the opportunity for all members to come together and have discussions.’’
She doesn’t agree with Brown deciding the membership on a casting vote and would have liked him to have discussed it further.
Southgate said there has never been a formal consideration of Hamilton leaving the LGNZ, even with the recent budget cuts.
‘‘It’s never been raised with us. We’ve never had that discussion. I have seen members of my council commenting if they see any value in it. But we’ve never had any requests to leave or not. I would strongly oppose it myself because of the great value it brings.’’
There is a financial benefit to members of LGNZ with opting in to share things like insurance and electricity cost.
‘‘Some of the smaller councils would be very much left behind if they couldn’t tap into those expertises.’’
Hamilton City Council is currently helping out Aucklanders affected by Cyclone Gabrielle through a LGNZ initiative of adopting a council.
‘‘Hamilton was paired with Auckland, and so we’ve been raising funds in Hamilton – not to help the council but to help the people of Auckland recover from Cyclone Gabrielle.’’