Central government warned against taking ‘top-down approach to reform’

A more balanced, collaborative and equitable relationship between the different levels of government and less ‘top down’ dictation are among the many suggestions made to the Future of Local Government Review Committee by Whakatāne District Council.

At a meeting last week, the council approved the 12-page submission to the panel set up by the central government last year to review the transformation of the local government system.

Photo: LDR / Diane McCarthy

It is expected to publish draft recommendations for public consultation later this year and report to the Minister for Local Government next April before any legislative reform begins.

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The review comes as local and regional councils face a series of reforms around three waters and resource management. The review panel released its interim report Arewa Ake te Kaupapa – Raising the Platform last October.

The board has been engaged in the review over the past six months, with elected members and staff attending numerous workshops and events to share ideas and provide feedback.

Throughout these meetings, the council advocated for central government to evolve alongside local government, that the review should make sound and grounded recommendations to central government rather than being dictated to and that the various reforms should be better contact information.

“Following the way the three-water reform has progressed, it is feared that a lot of genuine effort may be expended on the review, only for the results to be directed by a predetermined mandate from the central government,” the memorandum from the central government said. Whakatāne District Council.

“We fear that any imposed top-down approach to reform will damage rather than strengthen relations.”

He argued for local government to remain “truly local” and play a bigger role in shaping central government priorities. A single model would not take into account regional differences, “nor would it be appropriate for New Zealand’s inequality landscape”.

“We see the need, demand and gaps at the local level and welcome the opportunities for a stronger and deeper civic leadership role to fill them. We don’t want to provide basic central government services – we want to [central and local government] to better collaborate and better coordinate.”

The district, with a mix of urban and rural, 10 small towns and seven iwi groups had diverse needs.

“Engaging with these different communities, building trust and understanding, and advocating for local needs and aspirations can only really happen in a meaningful way at the local level,” the submission reads.

He also said iwi must be able to identify the role they want to play in local governance and have the resources to do so.

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