Local democracy should be respected

Having been a long-term renter, I’ve lived in quite a few different communities in New Zealand and each one has had a very different feel. That’s something I love, something I suspect everyone would want.

Local and regional government are in large part responsible for helping to create these distinct communities. They’re in charge of how most things looks, the community facilities – like libraries, pools, parks, sport fields, bus stops and community halls – support for our community groups, our water, buses, and of course protection for our local environments. These are all precious things that crease a sense of place and community and for some, our sense of identity. I am much closer to the elected officials in my area who actually get to make the decisions than I am to the Ministers of this National Government. That is true for most New Zealanders.

Local communities around the country have been consistently rejecting the Government’s plans for amalgamation. Much to the chagrin of certain National Ministers, this has happened in Wellington, the Hawkes Bay and Northland.

Yesterday it is was reported that the Government is looking at a new way of amalgamation by stealth. Paula Bennet seems to think New Zealand’s elected local and regional representatives, and communities don’t know what’s good for themselves. She seems to think that from Wellington, she knows what’s best and that her political mandate has primacy.

The Government is offering financial incentives for cash strapped councils to put services into Council Controlled Organisations (COO). They say this is their alternative to large scale amalgamation; a business model.

The recent moves by Auckland Transport to restrict people’s use of the berms, which they are required to care for, is just one example of how removing local democracy from decision making can undermine the feel and look of communities.

Creating beautiful, vibrant sustainable communities needs more involvement of the people living in those areas, not less. Turning over control of core infrastructure to CCOs is not the answer.