Local Government Foresight 2010

  • Tony Ryall
State Services

Let's suppose we're broadcasting the 12.30PM news live from Parliament on Wednesday, 4th November 2010.

The joint project the Canterbury City Council was involved in with the international corporation Fooltex has gone into liquidation leaving the council facing millions of dollars worth of debts.

Police have been called in to quell the rate riots in Auckland.

The Mayor of Waitakere City has recently announced that the council had "no role in wealth distribution. People use services so people should pay".

The promotion of New Zealand as the Riviera of the Southern Hemisphere has been highly successful. Tourist numbers are up as people flock to enjoy our long, hot dry summer.

And more tax cuts have just been announced by the National Government in its twentieth consecutive year in office.

I'm pleased to be here launching the Local Government Foresight 2010 discussion document.

Local Government Foresight 2010 has been written to stimulate debate on our system of local government and the way local government services are delivered over the next decade.

It is not Government policy, nor is it an indication of preferred directions.

Foresight is a process of discovering a route to a desirable future. When looking to the future, it is all too easy to project our own assumptions when in fact the changes that lie ahead are likely to be even more rapid than those which we have already experienced.

Just think for a moment of the vast changes that have occurred in local government over the past few years. Local government reforms have forced a greater level of professionalism and more emphasis on managerial excellence. Local government is now more customer focused, efficient and accountable and has a more strategic approach to governance.

The Foresight process focuses on the long-term future and provides a framework for plotting paths to a desirable future. It is not central planning, but a process for thinking about the future.

The Local Government Foresight 2010 discussion document you will receive today contains three scenarios to stimulate thinking about the future of local government. We all need to think about the sort of future we want and Government wants to listen to your views.

Local government will be able to use the discussion document in its ongoing strategic thinking. The future can't be shaped by central planning. It must be shaped by the thinking and action of people, groups and organisations across New Zealand.

As well as giving us a new way of talking about the future, the development of this project breaks new ground. We were approached by the local government sector to make this a joint initiative between the Department of Internal Affairs, Local Government New Zealand and the Society of Local Government Managers. This cooperation bodes well for the future relationship of central and local government. Together we can move forward in the same direction and create a 2010 we'll all be proud of.

Local Government Foresight 2010 brings together the possible effects on the local government sector of so called mega-trends such as globalisation, the knowledge revolution, new technologies and changing consumer markets.

The Foresight Project designed three scenarios for discussion: Possum in the Glare, Shark Roaming Alone and Nga Kahikatea.

They are only three of the many possible scenarios facing local government. You may like part of them, you may like one scenario in particular, or you may like something completely different. They're just designed to make you think about the future.

We in Government want to listen to your views. We need to hear your views. What happens in local government affects every New Zealander.

Let me tell you a bit about the first scenario. It's 2010 and we are Muddling Along, caught like a possum in the glare of the oncoming future. We are moving into the knowledge age in an evolutionary, not revolutionary way.

Councils are inconsistent. Some have contracted out services, some privatised them and others have retained control. Some councils work well with iwi, but others spend their time in conflict and in the courts. Some areas are struggling to cope.

Structures are also muddled. Auckland still has seven separate councils. Waikato can't make up its mind whether to merge the councils in the area. The merger in 2002 of Southland councils has been an outstanding success.

The people of New Zealand in 2010 are demanding new legislative provisions to clarify the lack of clear policy, establish a minimum set of roles for local government, and encourage self reliance and the use of local knowledge.

The Local Government Foresight 2010 scenarios are not government policy, nor local government policy.

But 'Muddling Along' could become a reality if we don't give the future serious thought.

In the spirit of the Foresight Project, we invite you all to become active participants in a discussion about the future role of local government and its relationship with central government. We look forward to listening to your views.