Largest third term win ever, yet National remains a lame duck government

Richard Harman reports on yet another National initiative that simply doesn’t have the numbers

The Prime Minister has signalled a Government back down over its controversial Local Government reforms.

The reforms have sparked a widespread revolt among Councils, particularly provincial and rural ones.

The proposals would allow the Local Government Commission to impose Auckland-style Council Controlled Organisations on Councils in anywhere in New Zealand.

Many Councillors who oppose the reforms are National Party supporters or members.

But faced with the long list of Councils opposing the reforms and growing public debate about the Bill which would implement them, John Key told his weekly post-Cabinet press conference yesterday that the Government would not die in the ditch on the issue.

“We’re not trying to deal to local government and force them to do things, but we do think it’s sensible for them to do these amalgamations when there is logical in doing so.”

Most Councils would not disagree with that.

Except councils are fiercely tribal.  And what they say and what they do are completely different. 

Currently, the legislation makes it difficult to set up separate organisations to undertake activities among some Councils like Auckland’s Council Controlled Organisations such as Watercare or Auckland Transport which were set up under the Auckland Council legislation.

So the Bill provides for a broader range of functions to be transferred to local authorities, joint governance arrangements for areas of common or shared interest, and greater use of joint council-controlled organisations (CCOs) for providing services.

New models introduced in the Bill include water services CCOs with statutory powers and two pre-approved models for transport CCOs, as well as bespoke transport CCOs subject to approval from the Minister of Transport.

But what is inciting the revolt in the provinces is a provision in the Bill which would allow the Local Government Commission to enable it to decide what investigations it would l undertake.

“This will be either on its own initiative or in response to a request from the Minister of Local Government, local authorities, or members of the public,” says notes attached to the Bill (Local Government Act 2002 Amendment (Number Two) Bill)

The truth is, unless Labour are on board with something, nothing much gets done these days.  Take a bow Peter Dunne, and thanks a lot to the Brains Trust that lost Northland to Winston Peters.

Labour, which originally supported the Bill, has now withdrawn its support.

The Bill is due out of the Select Committee on October 27.

The Prime Minister, clearly believing the Committee will make substantial changes, cautioned journalists to wait and see what its recommendations would ultimately be.


Richard Harman, Politik

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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