LGNZ Mayoral Induction HuiLocal Government
Kia ora koutou katoa and thank you for the invitation to speak to you all today.
Local democracy thrives when a broad range of individuals, who bring different perspective and experiences, stand for public office.
I want to acknowledge and congratulate all the newly elected and re-elected Mayors here today for the time and effort they put into standing for public office.
Thank you for your commitment to Aotearoa New Zealand.
This is a significant period for local government, with a lot of major change both underway and planned.
Although the voter turnout has continued to trend down, the role of local government has never been more important.
We need to work together to create a greater understanding in the community of the importance of diversity and representation within councils.
I fully expect that the Future for Local Government draft report, due 28 October, will make recommendations on a work programme that considers this issue.
I’m also mindful that as local councils reflect on your role in running local body elections, that we use the turnout of the last election as a means to seek continual improvement to support local democracy.
It’s important that local and central government work together.
This critical work early on sets the foundations councils to have a productive and respective triennium. So let’s cover off some of the important conversations.
New Zealanders need to be able to trust that the water from their tap won’t get them sick, that our pipes don’t leak, and wastewater infrastructure will be managed responsibly, that it is safe for them to swim at the beach, and they are paying a fair and affordable price for water services.
As we all know, the case has been made.
We can all agree that the status quo is not benefiting anyone. We have been talking about change for decades and we can’t afford to waste any more time. The time to act is now.
Evidence confirms that the water reform will ensure that New Zealander’s services are affordable for all. Without reform, New Zealanders wouldn’t be able to rely on vital water services without ballooning costs.
Without the reforms, the significant investment to upgrade and maintain the pipes and plants that provide safe drinking water, and treat and take away wastewater and stormwater, will be out of reach for communities.
Ratepayers can least afford to foot the bill. It is estimated that between $120 billion and $185 billion is needed over the next 30-40 years to get water systems across the country up to standard.
To ensure all New Zealanders have the same opportunities to thrive and prosper, we all need to ensure our infrastructure is resilient.
To ensure infrastructure resilience and meet the huge challenges ahead of us, changes are needed to the Three Waters management and service delivery.
Planning for and funding of infrastructure ensures communities have the facilities that allow their regions to thrive and prosper.
The change to water service delivery is a massive step change and will enable us to create the much-needed scale and structural change that will enable the significant investment required in water infrastructure to leverage new technologies, and take a uniquely New Zealand approach to building a world-class water system from tap to source via Te Mana o te Wai whole-of-cycle concepts.
Not only will it provide affordable and reliable drinking water, wastewater and storm water for all New Zealanders but it will also stimulate economic opportunities across the country.
We will be securing and creating jobs that create the conditions to build and sustain a highly skilled and adaptable water workforce that can innovate and collaborate to drive outcomes. These people will be locally accessible and thriving in a professionalised environment.
These changes are a once in a lifetime opportunity to protect the health and wellbeing of our people and communities for generations to come.
To give you an idea of where we are in the legislative process right now, many of you will be aware that the Water Services Entities legislation is currently before Parliament.
The committee of cross-party MPs currently reviewing the Water Services Entities Bill has travelled the country, to seven different locations, to hear submissions from a wide range of groups, including local authorities.
People have made submissions on a wide range of topics, from the boundaries of the water services entities, to whether stormwater services should be included, to the joint oversight arrangements for the water entities, so that’s been great that their voices have been heard.
I look forward to seeing the Committee’s report on 11 November, which I am sure will recommend a range of amendments to the legislation to ensure it achieves the outcomes we are seeking for New Zealanders.
Let me stress that this process will improve the workability of the legislation.
The momentum of Government reforms
The Government continues to progress with the reform agenda, in relation to Climate Change, RMA, Waters, and the FFLG, which make up part of the suite of reforms currently being progressed.
Local government will look different in future.
We live in a country where districts are geographically distinct, and while several needs are unique to some areas, I have also heard about the challenges shared across all councils.
The impacts of climate change are affecting all regions of our country, and this is putting pressure on the role and function of local government.
Road maintenance is challenging for most councils, many communities are facing different housing pressures, and local authorities are finding it difficult to fund critical services for their communities.
The Government anticipates that, with the reforms, our communities will benefit from:
- safe, affordable, and sustainable waters services;
- a thriving natural environment that supports economic growth and development;
- access to affordable, good quality homes;
- enhanced adaptability and resilience to the impacts of climate change; and
- an emissions and congestion pricing framework that will help New Zealand transition into a modern, carbon-neutral environment.
To maximise these benefits and have the best outcomes of our communities, the Government is committed to continue working with the local government sector.
Putting the wellbeing of current and future generations of New Zealanders at the heart of everything we do is a fundamental objective that we share with each other, emphasising the importance of place making.
While the foundational policy decision for these reforms have largely been made or are coming to their deadline, we need to acknowledge that beyond this, the implementation steps will present us with more opportunities to collaborate, build and enhance the relationship between central and local government, and iwi/Māori.
Shaping the future of local government
Alongside this, the independent review into the Future for Local Government in April 2021, will help us to recast the role and functions of local government that delivers wellbeing outcomes for our communities.
The Review has been tasked with taking a future-focused view of what local government does, how it does it, and how it pays for it; as well as defining a new partnership arrangement between mana whenua, central government, and local government.
The overall purpose of the Review is to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of Aotearoa communities and the environment, and to actively embody the Treaty partnership.
New Zealand will have a larger, more diverse population and technology that will change the way we live and work. The Review is an opportunity to create a new system of local governance and democracy that will effectively respond to a changing New Zealand and create conditions for communities to thrive.
The Review is scheduled to deliver its draft report on 28 October this year, with the final report due in June next year.
The draft report will be out for public consultation from its release through to 28 February 2023.
I encourage your councils to make a submission.
Local Government Reforms Ministerial Group and opportunities to engage
I am mindful that these reforms come with challenges.
I acknowledge the sector’s concerns about the cumulative impact that the ongoing reforms are having on local authorities and that councils are stretched in their capacity to engage with, and provide input into, the reform programme.
This year, I convened the Local Government Reforms Ministerial Group, tasked with investigating how to enable a more coordinated and strategic approach to the reforms impacting local government.
The purpose of the group is also to:
- identify strategic and communication opportunities that may contribute to a positive and productive relationship between central and local government;
- consider risks posed by the cumulative impacts of the reforms; and
- investigate any other opportunities and challenges arising from the interconnectedness of the reforms.
We will have an opportunity to better align engagement and have discussions with the sector on the reform programme. Ministers in the Local Government Reforms Ministerial Group are focussed on how best to alleviate the impacts of the reforms.
We have provided a cohesive overview of government reforms information to LGNZ to support and align your council’s work programme.
Building on the partnership between central and local government, and iwi/Māori
Neither central government nor local government on their own can address the most significant wellbeing issues facing local communities, or to address all the challenges that might emerge in the future.
As identified in the Future for Local Government Review Panel’s interim report, one of the barriers to a dynamic, collaborative and unified approach is the current relationship between central and local government.
A successful and authentic partnership needs commitment from both sides, and it needs to be built on trust and shared aspirations around intergenerational wellbeing.
When the busy induction period passes for the newly elected representatives, we will look to progress the partnership and engagement with Local Government New Zealand that have enabled councils to advance further along the track to financial sustainable infrastructure than has been possible for some years.
We have a shared objective of serving our communities, and making Aotearoa a thriving place to live in.
Being on board in local government now, means to me that you are committed to continue building on that relationship between central and local government, and I look forward to the ongoing collaboration with local councils to ensure that our shared objectives are met.
To conclude, I want to reiterate that the Government knows and understands the scale of the challenges ahead, and how amplified these challenges may feel at a local government level.
However, in partnership with central government, we will continue the well-established track record of working together to bring direct benefits to our communities.
We're grateful for your dedicated service to your communities.
Thank you for playing your part in making Aotearoa New Zealand a great place. May we continue to work together to make a difference in our communities.