27 July 2016
Local Government and Environment
Submission: Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2)
This submission is on behalf of the Landowners Coalition Inc – a non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection of private property rights.
We are generally supportive of measures that reduce the size of local government and transfer the management of essential services to Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs), which in our view are better able to manage critical infrastructure. We support the creation of CCOs for the delivery of potable water, waste water, roading, and consent processing.
It is our view that the level of competency within local government is such that it is not best able to manage complex organisations or matters requiring expertise.
We do however, believe it is essential to retain measures which give the public the right to veto (by way of a public poll) proposals that change the structure of their elected representation – including, but not limited to, proposals that seek to amalgamate two or more councils. Furthermore, we believe the public should have the right to veto (also by public poll) proposals to transfer council infrastructure to a council controlled organisation.
We note the Bill provides that if a number of councils jointly agree on an amalgamation plan, local citizens would have no right to call for a binding poll. We believe it should not be presumed that elected representatives will necessarily act in the best interests of the community at large, when it comes to matters in which they have a self-interest.
Accordingly, we strongly recommend that the provision for an automatic poll on Commission-led changes should be extended to cover all amalgamation and re-organisation proposals.
Since there remain concerns that the Local Government Commission, on behalf of the Minister, could create CCOs, without the approval of the council or the community, it is imperative that community involvement and support remains a priority in the Bill – especially given the on-going problems that are still evident in Auckland, where residents and ratepayers had amalgamation forced upon them.
Furthermore, we submit the Bill should be amended to include a “Brexit” clause, mandating an opt out poll five years after an amalgamation or transfer of services to a CCO.
We believe this would enshrine what should be a basic right of review, and it would make the public more inclined to accept a reorganisation proposal knowing that they can reverse the decision should the benefits proposed by the proponents of such a change not eventuate, which we believe has been the case in Auckland.
Frank Newman (Secretary, and former councillor, Whangarei District Council)
for the Landowners Coalition Inc