Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Local Government means Local Government

Christchurch was named some years ago as “The Republic of Christchurch” because it refused to follow the leads of other Councils to participate in the latest round of “we know what is best for local government” game.

Let us go back to basics. Councils were formed to bring economies of scale to services local people wanted and needed; roads, water supply, sewerage disposal, parks, gardens, libraries, celebrations, caring for less fortunate people etc because it was the cheapest, fairest and technologically advanced way to provide these services. It was a collective.

Councils were elected to make decisions to provide the services the local people wanted. Elections brought accountability every three years.

Over time there has been an increasing demand on the range of services to be provided and inevitably these were supplied. Communities were generally happy.

Central Government has set out to regulate local government through various acts and regulations many of them to set national standards to meet current health and safety standards for everyone. Nothing wrong with that but there was no money to help communities meet those new standards but that is another discussion.

Planning became an issue as there was perceived by many to be a waste of natural resources without clear thought to the future. The Town and Country Planning Act followed by the Resource Management Act have set out How planning should be done and what generic things need consideration. Individual councils built there own plans based on those guidelines.

In 2002 the new Local Government Act was a major reform. It gave Local government back the power of general competence which basically means a Council can do a whole range of things provided it is set out in a long term plan the LTCCP.

We as individuals and groups have the opportunity to comment on that plan and tell the Council what we think of it. Not enough of us do that.

This year we have a new Minister of Local Government who is intent on ignoring the legislation and talking as if his word is law. Actually it is central government meddling in local government again.

Communities both large and small do know what they want.

Each community is different and allows their councils to do the things the community wants. Local thinking and local action.

Some communities want more others less and others something different. That is the way communities develop their uniqueness, their point of difference and their aspirations. This difference is called Product Differentiation in the commercial world.

In times of economic turbulence this product differentiation of communities is an important leverage to encourage a rapid return to economic stability and then progress.

Having Central Government Ministers setting the ground rules about what Local Government will do is the same as painting everything grey or yellow. This sameness will extinguish every bit of innovation and creativity a community can muster to develop a unique, vibrant place to live, work and play and develop unique economic benefits to New Zealand.

Let us keep Local Government Local. Let’s be creative and responsive, let’s look at our own place in the world, let’s plan our own future within a national context, let’s be innovative, let’s be caring, let’s be exciting, let’s be ourselves rather than have someone try and impose their grey ideals on us.

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