Hamilton and Tauranga City Councils are banding together to air their disappointment with the draft report from the Future for Local Government Review Panel.
The councils representing two of New Zealand’s largest and fastest-growing cities say a much bolder approach is needed to take advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine local government.
The councils commissioned an independent analysis considering the opportunities and challenges for growth metro councils such as Hamilton and Tauranga and have submitted this to the Local Government Review Panel, alongside submissions of their own.
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate and Tauranga City Council Commission Chair Anne Tolley say the draft report is silent on the issues and questions affecting their communities.
“This is an opportunity to move beyond compromise arrangements and make some bold changes that will open the way for councils to make the tough decisions that will ultimately provide better outcomes for their communities,” Mayor Southgate said.
“For high growth metros like Hamilton and Tauranga to be successful, we need a system where policy intent, planning and funding – three legs of the stool – are aligned to deliver wellbeing, and right now, we’re not seeing that.”
Chair Tolley says better alignment is needed between the review of local government and the concurrent resource management and three waters reform processes. “These change processes have the potential to be a significant agent of beneficial changes, but not as they stand. Our councils would like to see these reviews rescoped, with a focus on aligning roles and responsibilities with outcomes; and providing the capability and resources needed for success.”
Among the recommendations the councils are calling for is to line-up the resource management reform with the review of local government. This would ensure community outcomes guide the allocation of roles and responsibilities and give local government the capabilities and resources needed to be successful.
Other key steps specifically identified for metro councils include:
- An overhaul of the funding system through more flexible debt-to-revenue ratios, and a longer-term approach to growth-infrastructure funding and better coordination of channels so it can be delivered faster.
- Longer-term (up to 10 years) Waka Kotahi funding commitments, so that transport infrastructure planning is not constrained by a three-year funding window.
- Agreeing growth-planning and funding arrangements at the same time, so that plans are not relitigated during the funding process.
- Addressing the current growth financial incentives, which see the lion’s share of revenue go to central government.
- Recognition that the benefits of metro councils’ infrastructure investments extend beyond their boundaries.
- Increasing the current term of councils from three to four years, to reduce governance churn and relitigation of direction.
- Consideration of a two-tier local government system which would provide better coordination of investment planning between neighbouring metro councils.
- A move towards partnership-led funding and financing, which would recognise that community wellbeing is not the sole preserve of any one layer of government.
“This is our one chance to get this right and ensure we put in place a local government system that will enable the housing, transport and social and cultural infrastructure growth our future communities need,” Chair Tolley said.