Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hide makes a start on local government

Kiwiblog cheers on Rodney Hide's speech to Local Government NZ. Now I saw how Local Government NZ worked with the Labour government, and it was a very symbiotic relationship. Local Government NZ wanted more power, Labour gave it more power (not as much as LGNZ wanted). Local Government NZ wanted more money from central government, Labour gave it a some more money. Labour wanted Local Government NZ to support its policy initiatives in housing, transport and environment, Local Government NZ did. Labour wanted Local Government NZ to help it rewrite legislation on local government, Local Government NZ was involved in partnership to help develop the Local Government Act 2002.

So when Hide says:

"I don't represent councils.I represent the people whose hard work and savings pay the rates"

About time!

"First, I want to keep rate rises down and encourage you to focus on core activities. On the necessities, not the luxuries" So I will be pushing for councils to accept that rates rises should be capped at the rate of inflation, or less. Sure, councils for good reason may need to increase rates faster than inflation"Well I'd cap rates permanently to squeeze local government out of non core activities, and encourage a progressive disengagement. I can't think of a good reason to increase a property tax faster than inflation, especially when property values grew beyond inflation until very recently. Nevertheless, it is a better direction than the past.

"what should be the core roles of councils ...Providing public services such as rubbish removal, road maintenance, parks, libraries, and light handed-regulatory controls."

Rubbish removal can be privately done, road maintenance of local streets could eventually be privately done, parks can be privately managed, as can libraries. Regulatory controls should only be the application of private property rights. However, if all councils just did this we would all be a lot better off.

"When I look at the expanding breadth of activities that councils engage in, the answer must surely be, "Businesses should be doing this - not the council."


"Even if it is a job appropriate for local government, the answer may still be "No, our ratepayers can't afford it."

In fact it may better be, ratepayers shouldn't be forced to pay for it.

"Ratepayers want to know who is responsible for council decisions - and who to hold to account"

Sadly all the transparency in the world wont get back money wasted, but it should put people in fear of losing their jobs.

"I want to see respect for private property rights. I want the freedom of individual New Zealanders enhanced."

Wonderful stuff!! When did you last hear that? Will National Party Cabinet Ministers say this?

However then he talks about changes to the RMA and the Building Act, which um aren't exactly about private property rights and individual freedom.

"It's taking nine months to get a resource consent to put in a cable car ... so that an elderly lady can get to her house easily up a steep cliff from the street."

Exactly. Sheer nonsense.

So I expect Local Government NZ is scared, fearful its members are about to get their hands tied, their petty fascist ways over and the age of nanny cities and nanny districts is over. It wont be, but it sure sounds like the tide is changing.

Now read the speech by Sandra Lee, the first Minister of Local Government when the Labour/Alliance coalition was elected in 1999.

"I believe our communities are, overall, very well served by their local authority elected members. I have yet to meet a district, city or regional councillor, or community board member, who was not deeply committed to the service of his or her local community."

Well she was one, she'd wouldn't want to say there is always some deadwood out there and blithering idiots.

"I agree with your President that the powers it (new Local Government Act) contains should, in general, be more enabling and empowering rather than just an updated version of the prescription contained in the current legislation"

Do more not less!

"One of the more unusual aspects of our work as elected representatives is that we get to spend other people's money"

Shock! Really? Unusual is it? I thought that was state socialism par excellence. Indeed the nonsense of accountability through local democracy is palpable, as most local body consultation responses are from vested interest groups wanting the loudest voice - not the average ratepayer fed up with being fleeced and pushed around.

The change in attitude is to be welcomed. If only Hide can do as he says it will help, as a first step. It is time to roll back the creeping hands of local government, and no Labour style partnership with local government will enable that. Rodney is going to have to get legislation drafted to not only cap rates, but cap what local authorities do.

The report at No Minister about how the ARC wasted $1.7 million of Auckland ratepayers' money on the David Beckham exhibition soccer game is only the latest example of why the "power of general competence" of local authorities is to many ratepayers a rather sick joke. They have the power, but how often do they have to show rank incompetence?


Anonymous said...

Here's the real question:

Why does NZ need councils at all?

I think the best result for Auckland would be to turn it back to "city corporation" - a private company!

No concillors. No stupid and expensive elections or election campaigns! No fucking council WEALTH taxthat penalises hardworking kiwis and rewards bludgers

Eliminate all governance rules for councils. RMA's gone. Council planning officers - gone! Take the whole lot out.

Fire every single council worker; give all the assets to infratil. Let them keep what they can work out how to charge for.

KG said...

What anonymous said. Too bloody right!

Libertyscott said...

Anonymous, I don't disagree, my expectations remain low.

Frankly what I'd do is sell 40% of council businesses and activities that can recover costs to the private sector, and gift shares of the rest to ratepayers. The sale can erase council debt, and put in professionals to run services. The ratepayers get to have "true" public ownership.

In three years, all that would be left are the last bits - roads, footpaths, parks. Some private property rights would need extended (airspace, coast, rivers, sight lines). Those last "hard" bits could be addressed in the following three years.

Oswald Bastable said...

It is all contracted out where I live (South Wairarapa)

All the council do is building inspections, libraries and dog control.

The libraries work well, the rest suck arse!- hell, they have a dogcatcher who was convicted of stealing a dog- and kept her job!

The service contract would run a lot better but for council interference. They admit they can't run staff or do the work, but persist in trying to micromanage the contractor, who is expected to do a first class job with their run-down infrastructure.

Such as a sewerage pond that anyone can jump the fence and drain into the local lake...