What if? appreciates the busy work of elected representatives on local councils. It’s all-consuming, involving consultation, reading, advocacy, teamwork, correspondence, reporting, debate, diplomacy, committees, direct contact with individuals, groups and organisations, and MORE – then too, serving the people can be a thankless task at times.
We note the quality of the information Councillor Richard Walls provides here. We value your online participation, knowledge and wit. Thanks Richard.
Why don’t more councillors blog? To air views, hear ours – it’s a great medium to jointly examine council/community interests and concerns. It’s fun and immediate, ultimately ‘flexible’. [BTW rants, artifice, slams, borax…all that just keeps us awake – but anything!! to drive page views.]
Let’s take a quick look at local government.
The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) provides online resources to broadly explain the role of local government.
The DIA is responsible for administering the Local Government Act, and advising if the local government laws are working as intended. Various government departments are concerned with specific local government functions (eg Ministry for the Environment for resource management).
The following excerpts come from the DIA website.
Local councils promote the well-being of local communities
Wherever you live, your local authority is working with its community to enhance social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being now and for the future.
While Parliament is elected to deal with issues relevant to New Zealand and its people as a nation, local government enables democratic local decision-making.
* Managing the effects of using freshwater, land, air and coastal waters, by developing regional policy statements and the issuing of consents
* Managing rivers, mitigating soil erosion and flood control
* Regional land transport planning and contracting passenger services
* Harbour navigation and safety, oil spills and other issues related to marine pollution.
Territorial authorities (city and district councils)
The powers and responsibilities of city and district councils are the same. The difference is city councils generally represent a population of more than 50,000 who are predominantly urban-based.
* Providing local infrastructure, including water, sewerage, stormwater, roads and footpaths
* Community infrastructure such as parks, museums, playgrounds, recreation centres, libraries etc
* Regulatory services including building control, liquor licensing, public health inspections and animal control
* Controlling the effects of land use through planning and resource consents (including natural hazards and indigenous biodiversity)
* Other functions including community and economic development, events such as summer programmes, and community grants and funding.
Councils are made up of members of the public elected in local authority elections held every three years.
Each council decides how to structure itself to work on behalf of its community.
The council is led by the Mayor or a Chairperson, who provides leadership and direction to the council and community, and chairs meetings. They are often seen as the public face of the council.
Councils generally establish committees to look at areas of their work. These might include environmental planning and regulatory services, resource consents, finance, works and services, community development and well-being, or land transport. These committees usually make recommendations for consideration and approval by council, but they are sometimes delegated the power to make decisions.
Councils may also convene sub-committees to examine specialist areas.
Some activities must be approved by the full council. These include:
* Setting rates
* Borrowing money
* Buying or selling some types of land
* Adopting major council documents such as the long-term council community plan (LTCCP) or annual report.
Many territorial authorities have community boards to help represent and advise council on community views. They sometimes carry out delegated council service delivery or regulatory responsibilities. Community boards are elected at the same time as councils, but do not have the same powers.
Local government powers
Everything local authorities do is governed by the legislative framework established by Parliament.
Local government legislation gives local authorities quite wide autonomy, but the laws emphasise councils must show how and why decisions have been made, and must promote community well-being.
Key laws that govern and empower local government are:
* Local Government Act 2002 (sets out the general powers of councils, the community outcomes process, and planning and accountability requirements)
* Local Government (Rating) Act 2002 (sets out powers councils have to raise revenue through rates)
* Local Electoral Act 2001 (sets out the process for council elections).
In addition, many local government activities are governed by separate Acts of Parliament such as the Resource Management Act, the Building Act and the Biosecurity Act.
Who local government works with
Local authorities often work closely with central government and other organisations, public bodies, businesses and citizens to help achieve community well-being.
Local government funding
Local authorities raise much of their funding through rates, investments, fees and charges. The level these are set at is shown in the council’s long-term council community plan, or annual plan.
Central government also provides some funding or subsidies toward particular activities, primarily roading.
Council services can include:
o Water supply and reticulation
o Drainage and stormwater pipes
o Waste water treatment
o Roads, footpaths, street lighting and parking services
o Public transport
o Public libraries, museums and art galleries
o Swimming pools
o Sports grounds, parks, gardens and reserves (including cemeteries)
o Recreation and convention centres, and community halls
o Rubbish collection, waste disposal and recycling
o Regulatory and planning services
o Community housing
o Grants and community development support
o Visitor information services
o Pest control and biodiversity
o River catchment and flood protection work
o Pollution management and control.
Local authorities make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economy.
Not all communities are the same, nor do they have the same issues.
You elect councillors as your representatives to make local decisions taking account of local issues, needs and priorities. This means councils may make different decisions on managing similar situations.
Flourishing communities need:
* Sustained economic development and new jobs
* A healthy and safe environment
* Supportive community networks
* A vibrant and developing culture and identity
* A stable political climate.
Local government has an important role in helping secure these outcomes.
Local government affects you daily
Many of your everyday activities are dependent on services provided by your local city, district or regional council.
These range from water flowing freely from your taps, applying for a building permit, finding a car park so you can borrow books from the library, taking your children to the park, putting out the rubbish for collection, to walking your dog at night along well-lit streets.
Other important local government activities include:
* Writing and managing plans for your area’s development, including management of the natural and urban environment
* Making bylaws and enforcing them
* Participating in community partnerships and initiatives such as reducing crime, increasing jobs or access to housing
* Civil defence planning and emergency preparedness.
A key aim for all local authorities is sustainable well-being for their area. This means councils must work toward enhancing social, economic, environmental and cultural factors that contribute to a healthy community.
For more information on local government in New Zealand, and for information about individual councils, visit www.localcouncils.govt.nz.
The NZ Society of Local Government Managers (SOLGM) has initiated a useful information site, People shaping progress: local government careers.
Councils provide a huge range of services – from the basics of maintaining an efficient infrastructure of roads and pipes, to providing community facilities such as libraries, museums and parks.
The level of service is largely determined by local communities, who set their priorities through a mandated consultation process with their council called the Long Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP).
The LTCCP was established under the Local Government Act 2002, which ensures that councils consult and report to their communities in a clear and accountable way.
Services and projects can vary widely from one council to another. One community might see water supply as a priority; another might believe traffic management is important. Much will depend on a council’s location and size, development and growth patterns, and population profile.
Generally, council activities fall into six categories:
Arts, Community and Recreation
* Libraries, museums, galleries
* Parks and reserves, cemeteries and crematoria
* Festivals and events
* Social development and support
* Community wellness initiatives
* Coastal, watercourse and land management and biodiversity
* Animal and Pest Management, biosecurity
* Pollution prevention and correction
* Resource Management Act
* Geographic information
* Traffic or transportation planning, engineering and operations
* Water, waste water and storm water
* Solid waste and recycling
* Engineering, design, project management and construction
* Asset and capital plant management
* Democracy services
* Organisational Planning
* Finance, legal and commercial services
* Property management
* Human resources management
* Information and communications technology
* Marketing, communications, public consultation
* Resource Management Act
* Traffic and transportation
* Community and social
* Strategic planning
* Economic development
* Financial planning
* By-law development
* Urban design
* Resource Management Act
* Building and consents
* Health and hygiene control
* Licensing and permits
* Waterways and navigation
For further information on the local government scene in New Zealand, go to www.lgnz.co.nz.
Old news snippet – or was it.
Local body balance urged
The Press August 31, 1998
DUNEDIN — The days of the “rampant commercial ethos” were over in local body politics, Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner says.
She told the Society of Local Government Managers’ annual conference in Dunedin that balance was required and it was important elected representatives and local body managers worked closely for the benefit of the people they served.
She lost some friends. We lost an aluminium smelter.
Dunedin breathed another future.
“Our first obligation is to stop behaving like primitive tribes people. The cargo-cult mentality among Dunedin’s business community is a major obstacle to any serious discussion of the city’s future. Whether it be an aluminium smelter at Aramoana, a meat processing plant on the Taieri, an environmentally suspect timber mill at Allanton, or a casino in central Dunedin, the message is the same. Only monstrous, ecologically damaging, and socially destructive projects, preferably foreign-owned and financed, can rescue Dunedin’s fortunes.
“This simply is not the case. Such projects are, by their very nature, highly exploitative. They suck resources from both the natural environment and the local economy. Like the gold mines of the last century, such ‘development projects’ produce only a short-term boost in economic performance, and when the resource is exhausted, or as the prices of basic commodities fall below profitable levels, the industry disappears, leaving its host weaker and more vulnerable than it was before the so-called economic ‘stimulant’ was injected…”
— from Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner’s ‘State of the City’ address to the Dunedin Lions Club 22 April 1996