New Zealand First Local Government spokesperson Andrew Williams warns that flawed local government reforms to be debated in Parliament this week undermine the important second tier of our democratic system.
Mr Williams says local government should return the best value for ratepayers and taxpayers, especially in providing infrastructure.
“However, the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill risks destroying the heart and soul of what makes a city or district desirable to live in.
“It would seriously hamper elected councillors from representing grassroots interests of communities.
“The watchdog role of elected officials to ensure the financial bottom line does not over-ride the greater community interest is also under threat.”
Mr Williams says there is a misconception that local government debt escalated because councils pandered to popular local interest side issues.
“That is actually a relatively small portion of council spending.
“In reality, councils had to fill enormous vacuums left by central government after decades of infrastructure neglect.
“They also had to meet the burden and costs of central government legislation such as the regulation of prostitution and brothels, dog control, and liquor licensing.”
Mr Williams says New Zealand First is opposed to selling off local government assets to help fund council activities such as pensioner and community housing.
“The local government framework was meant to be consultative and co-operative.
“The Bill is symptomatic of the Government’s modus operandi of setting up combative forms of governance with the potential to divide mayors and councillors.
“It is an unhealthy model,” says Mr Williams.