I put it down to many of those who stand for local government, they are busybody do-gooders who think if they have some statist power to regulate, tax and spend, they can do their little bit to "make the world a better place" rather than just leave peaceful people alone. Comparatively few people who want less government stand for local government - partly because they are concentrating on their own lives, jobs, businesses and families, but also because the ability to do much about constraining local government is relatively low. The recently elected Auckland City Council has started to be more frugal in some respects, but still there hasn't been a wholesale rollback of local government since central government reforms of the late 80s, early 90s.
Labour whilst in power reformed local government to give it more powers - specifically known as "the power of general competence", allowing it to do as it wishes on any area of activity, excluding a tiny handful reserved for central government. In other words, local government could provide welfare benefits, healthcare, schools, run restaurants, railways, racecourses, radio stations, whatever it wishes. So it is no wonder local government has continued to grow.
So you might think National could reverse that and at least limit local government to core "public goods". Well this is what John Key had to say to Local Government New Zealand...
"We want to give local government a broader range of tools that can be used to address the needs of local communities. These options could involve increased use of partnerships, charging arrangements, and longer-term financing."
OK so a generous view would be allowing private investment in infrastructure. Well fine, forget Public Private Partnerships and go for privatisation. However charging arrangements? What does that mean? Does he mean new taxes? Why not simply cut what local government does John? Get it out of the provision of services that can be done privately.
Then he says, not only will he provide new tools but:
"We will also look at more appropriate ways to ensure that local government knows what central funding and other support it would receive for undertaking new responsibilities. A National Government will not be looking for a free ride at the expense of ratepayers"
He wants local government to do more and charge taxpayers everywhere to do it!
Now he also said "we need to ensure that taxpayers’ money and ratepayers’ money is being used effectively and efficiently." This implies some central government oversight of local authority spending, which may be a rather bureaucratic way of saying "no".
However, there is a point where in his speech you think he MIGHT get it:
but NOOOOO. He doesn't....
"This environment puts real pressure on politicians, both local and central. But it also gives us an opportunity to look at how we can most effectively provide the services that people expect from us. Over the next few years we will need to concentrate on the basics – on providing good services where people want them, and at a reasonable cost."
Concentrate on the basics MIGHT imply what I said earlier, so maybe he'll be honest with us - the ratepayers and say he wants to cut the size of local government.What do you reckon? Does he record suggest anything will change? Here are some pointers about what SHOULD change.