Time to police local government

With nobody policing Local Government, the troughing gravy train has for years been ignoring the law on many fronts and doing whatever it likes.

Not withstanding that the brass at most Councils think they know better than anyone else and Councillors are ignorant, the fact remains that Local Government is getting away with all manner of mismanagement and law breaking that will come home to roost in years to come.

Of course nobody will be held accountable, and the mess will take decades to remedy. Our economy will grind to a halt and costs will continue to rise.

It is somewhat reassuring that the Auditor General has finally woken up to the fact that Local Government’s all over New Zealand are in poor financial shape with failing or nearly failing infrastructure that hasn’t been maintained. But all she can do is make comments. She has little power to enforce compliance with her recommendations and she is not compelled by law to make Councils remedy issues.

And the there is nobody watching Councils where it concerns their performance on Resource Management matters. Sure the MFIE and MBIE exist but that’s cold comfort. The Environment Court does at times slap down Councils when they blunder or ignore the law, but only when issues are raised to them. Given the extraordinary costs to run a successful Court proceedings (lawyers and expert witnesses all costing big bucks) an appellant is forced to focus solely on their own issues.

In short there is nobody who is carrying the high ground and keeping Local Government honest. ?

Which leads to my point. Almost.

New Zealand is not a large country. Our total population barely parallels the population of cities around the world and yet we have a geographic spread that results in the continual use of localised governance despite that its over sized for the population it serves and we actually live in a modern era of communication and travel. Truly it begs the question as to why we continue to do it this way when more efficient options are available.

Of course the answer is to take the knife to Local Government and reform, restructure and down size it to what is needed but that will take the type of brass political balls that can’t be found in Wellington except in response to financial crisis. Thus we will have to put up with the madness that is snowballing at local government level.

And now the point. Most of the issues of Local Government stems from their complete disregard for the law. But that’s because nothing happens when they do ignore the law. Write a District Plan that is contrary to case-law or the Act – so what – nothing happens. Get the Council into dept and fail to perform your functions and duties – well the Auditor General might bring it up, but still nothing happens.

And so its time to suggest that the Government consider instituting a more robust and powerful watchdog over local government. One that must act to prosecute Councils, revoke rights and that can step in to take control when Councils balls it up. Its only then might they start to act reasonably and run our cities and regions appropriately.