The regional council keeps the LGNZ link

The West Coast Regional Council voted narrowly to retain its membership of Local Government of New Zealand (LGNZ) after hearing a ‘tsunami’ of law change affecting councils will only intensify.

The council voted 4-3 late last week to retain its members after the national lobby group introduced the councillors.

Chairman Allan Birchfield said he was voting no to put the group on notice. Crs Peter Ewen and Brett Cummings also objected.

Cr John Hill said LGNZ’s advocacy role was not well received.

“It comes the other way: you come to local government advocating for central government,” he said before casting his vote.

Crs Debra Magner and Stuart Challenger expressed similar views.

LGNZ Chairman Stuart Crosby acknowledged dissatisfaction with the LGNZ’s role in its dialogue with the government on the Three Waters issue.

However, his position on this has also been grossly misrepresented, Mr Crosby said.

“LGNZ took a stand to try to influence what we considered to be a very bad model – and we still see it as a bad model.

“Although we agree with a process and agree with certain principles, we do not and have not agreed with the model.”

LGNZ had put off the government’s reform model for nine months.

“We have been able – with great success so far – to change it and we will continue through the bill process…we have influence.”

However, he warned the council that he needed to be represented as much deeper reform affecting local government was looming.

“The biggest game in town is the changes to RMA [Resource Management Act].”

The Combined District Plan process imposed by the government on the three West Coast territorial authorities was one such change that is now being reported for the rest of the country.

The regional council was given responsibility for drafting the combined plan, but this also came at a high cost to its taxpayers.

“You are the leader in New Zealand in this space, but you have to pay for it. We think we could have helped you in this process. Ultimately the power of one has an impact, but the power of 77 [local] the authorities definitely have more to go to the government.”

Cr Laura Coll-McLaughlin said the

the value of ‘localism’ and the role of local councils in ‘place-making’ and impartiality were clearly threatened by reforms such as Three Waters.

“These are all things that are at the heart of every conversation we have,” she said.

Cr Hill said the council felt helpless and coerced in the face of changing the law as the government rammed through changes in the current legislature.

This made it very difficult for boards to respond adequately and consult as needed, given that they were now in the last quarter of the current three-year term.

“You mention…the power of 77, but what ratepayers and local councils are saying is that despite the power of 77 the government is moving forward. It’s not just Three Waters. We had a report today that lists the tsunami of new legislation and bills that the central government is calling for,” said Cr Hill.

LGNZ chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene said the reality of the amount of legislative reform affecting local government was relentless with the absolute majority in government at present.

The LGNZ played a role in this to ensure that the ‘sons’ of local community representation were included in the reform.

Brendon McMahon, local democracy reporter

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