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Local Government Act Amendment Bill poses a threat to New Zealand’s local democracy

1 Sep 2016

Government plans to depower local councils is an affront to local democracy and will not be tolerated by communities, Mayor Brian Hanna says.

Mayor Hanna says the Local Government Act Amendment Bill currently before Parliament contains some good provisions, but moves to give the Government the power to create Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) without first seeking council or community agreement is an unacceptable affront to local democracy.

“This is undemocratic and unacceptable.  The creation of CCOs should be a matter for councils and their communities and to have this choice removed would just see decisions made for us by someone in Wellington,” says Mayor Hanna

“We have been vocal in our opposition to this aspect of the Bill and our communities have asked us to fight it as well.  Combining council services in this way would be amalgamation by stealth.”

The aim of the Bill is to improve service delivery and infrastructure provision at the local government level.

Mayor Hanna says this is an excellent goal and the council supports this intent.  “But improvement needs to be made in a way that enhances and strengthens local democracy, not undermines and weakens it.  As a council we are lifting our performance by completing essential upgrades of our infrastructure, and collaborating with other Council’s in the Waikato Region to boost the regional economy and deliver significant dollar cost savings through integrated initiatives.” 

Mayor Hanna says as the country prepares to go to the polls for the 2016 local elections it is perverse that such an anti-democratic Bill is being discussed.

“This Bill, if enacted in full, will undermine the very thing we are asking people to participate in in a few weeks’ time. Local democracy exists to give local citizens the power to make decisions about where they live, and to hold those they elect to represent them accountable.

“Placing council service into CCOs without community support removes this accountability.”