National’s approach to local government is all over the place

As successive Ministers of Local Government,  Nick Smith and David Carter loudly criticised councils for their debt level and  said councils needed to focus on “core services “ without defining what these were.

Last year National made major changes to the Local Government Act so that the purpose of local government was no longer the promotion of the community’s social, economic, environmental   and cultural wellbeing but the provision of cost effective infrastructure, services and regulation.

Now Sports Minister Murray McCully proposes to offload the financially troubled Eden Park onto Auckland Council  with the risk of ratepayer bailouts being needed.

In Christchurch Minister Brownlee and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority  are pushing an extravagant covered 35,000 seat stadium  on citizens as part of the Christchurch rebuild.

There are much higher priorities for council funds (such as the many yet to be repaired community halls, swimming polls and other facilities. The city already has a perfectly adequate “temporary” rugby stadium in Addington which is not always filled, even for Crusaders matches.   A new uncovered 35,000 seat stadium would cost a jaw dropping $220 million and a covered one even more.

Ministers McCully and Brownlee obviously have a much broader interpretation of what is a core council service than Dr Nick Smith.  The Eden Park offload highlights the irrational and ideologically driven nature of National’s changes to local government  legislation.

Councils are accountable to citizens who elect them. Instead of meddling in local government and directing what projects and services councils should provide, National should let councils make their own decisions. Those decisions should focus on providing the services that communities need:  from  drinking water to social housing  to libraries and effective public transport.   As Dunedin City Council has found to its cost , a stadium can be an expensive luxury.

5 Comments Posted

  1. Michael:

    There is right and there is wrong. National is right on housing, right now. I give credit where it’s due.

    The reason why I haven’t had rabid opposition to my assertions is because other’s know they are right to – even some Green voters. Getting the cost of new-builds down is THE crux of the problem. So far only National is preaching it.

  2. Local authorities are not a constitutional creation, they are creatures of statute. It is not a federal state, so they should not have unfettered power. They generate appalling turnout at the polls, indicating a large scale of disengagement and so there should be caution about them having unlimited powers.

    For example, it is quite immoral for local authorities to be able to use ratepayers’ money to compete with private businesses (which are paying the rates). The role should simply be to provide public goods that are not centrally supplied.

  3. Yes – stadiums should not come before houses. Especially when they are so badly needed.

    But, according to Nick Smith, councilors have told him [in slightly different words] that the impact of their forced intensification regime on housing affordability is not their concern. Dr Smith has said, in response to this, “that that is just not going to fly”…

    And too bloody right. If councils are not going to respect the absolutely fundamental need for fair-priced housing, then they need nothing less than a leash on their necks and boot up their asses.

    Local governments should not have the ability to ruin people’s lives at their discretion. And if they do – they should receive the “disrespect” that they (we) need.

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