SOLGM Awards keynote address

SOLGM Awards  keynote address

11/4/2019

It is great to see so many excellent and outstanding individuals in attendance tonight.

  • I would like to thank the sponsors for supporting this wonderful event.

Introduction

  • Thank you for the invitation to speak to you tonight.
  • Joining you tonight is an opportunity to celebrate people who are committed to making a positive impact through local government leadership.
  • I want to thank and acknowledge the people who ensure that local government services are provided on time, within budget, and to a high standard for our communities. Importantly, our local councils are creating the liveable cities, vibrant communities, and protecting our natural landscapes, heritage and waterways that make Aotearoa a unique place to live.
  • This time last year we saw, among others, awards given to:
  • Waikato Regional Council awarded for its project Kawe Kōrero – an app that helps council employees to better engage with Māori;
  • Kaikōura District Council for The Hospo Project – Feeding the Village – the mobilisation of 22 local businesses and one catering service into a single catering programme to support the workers at the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery Village; and
  • Auckland Council for its Community Facilities Asset Management Enhancement project – a multi-year programme for upgrading information on the Council’s community facilities assets, and the systems for managing that information to support better decision-making.
  • With these awards we recognised and celebrated kaupapa that promoted community engagement and empowerment in an innovative way.
  • As we know, a productive and successful partnership between central and local government is crucial to deliver successful outcomes for communities.
  • Safe reliable drinking water, regional economic growth, infrastructure funding and financing, natural resource management and the challenge of climate change are just some of the issues I have been working on alongside colleagues.
  • We are working with local government to find long lasting solutions to these challenges.
  • Empowering communities by giving them a stronger voice and role in lifting their own wellbeing is an important part of the collaboration to build an inclusive society.
  • Tonight, I would like to speak to you about some of the priorities, which are key to address intergenerational wellbeing.
  • But let me start with the local governance for wellbeing programme.

Local Governance for Wellbeing Programme

  • This time last year, I signalled that we would be reintroducing the four wellbeings to legislation to give local government a mandate to focus on the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being of communities. Legislatively, we are nearly there.
  • In addition, officials have started to engage informally with local government and community representatives on how we can achieve a well-being approach in local decision-making.
  • Well-being is fundamentally about our quality of life and the relationship between people and place, and increasingly, our natural and built heritage, the vibrancy of our community and our culture of accessibility.
  • Wellbeing is like a korowai/cloak and as such brings together many interrelated themes.
  • The tragic recent events of March 15 highlight that it is incumbent on all of us to lift our focus on social inclusion as an important aspect of wellbeing and connectedness.
  • The role of local government in this context and the partnership with central government and the community is so important.
  • We need a comprehensive discussion about what is required. We are currently analysing initial feedback to add to our work.
  • I want to acknowledge the significant investment SOLGM has made in creating its Community Wellbeing Indicators Framework.
  • The framework is a tool that provides a ‘kete’ of indicators and associated measures that councils will be able to draw from when setting or assessing community wellbeing targets.
  • We should be able to use the tool to access what matters when working toward wellbeing and how does this inform the investments we make.
  • I’ll be seeking Cabinet approval of a high-level framework for this work in May.

Three waters review

  • Three waters is, I think, the first cab off the rank in tackling a big wellbeing issue.
  • The assurance of clean reliable drinking water no matter where you live, whānau are able to swim in our rivers, lakes and beaches without the threat of raw sewage seeping into the ocean, is a simple expectation in a country like ours.
  • We are tracking on the first part of the challenge which is a regulatory with drinking water as the first priority, and then wastewater and storm water.
  • In November last year, Cabinet signed off on a multi-phased approach to the Review.
  • By June 2019, Cabinet will consider detailed proposals for improving the regulation of the three waters.
  • By late 2019, further policy proposals will be put to Cabinet for improving how water services are delivered, their economic regulation, and proposals to improve oversight and stewardship across the three waters system.
  • The immediate priority is getting the right regulatory framework in place, and I appreciate the contribution of the local government sector so far to this critical work.
  • This includes:
    • territorial and regional sector reference groups that are assisting the Three Waters project team in gathering information and developing emerging regulatory proposals; and
    • the sector’s input into targeted regional engagement workshops that have been held throughout the country to work through the emerging regulatory proposals.
  • The question of how we deliver water to our communities in the longer term is an ongoing conversation that we look forward to having with local government and others throughout 2019 and beyond.

At the same time, we’re mindful of the costs associated with upgrading and maintaining water infrastructure. This is a key part of the Review and we look forward to engaging with the sector on how best to quantify those costs.

Electronic voting and civic participation

  • Increasing civic participation in local government is a key priority for me. 
  • Ensuring all people living in Aotearoa have a voice, is essential to ensuring the success for our democracy.
  • Currently, voting in local elections is done through the post. However, with current challenges, including the declining popularity of the postal services, this may not be feasible in the long term. 
  • Central government has been working with local government to enable councils to trial online voting in local elections. 
  • There are some risks associated with an online trial, and each council is following its own decision-making process in deciding whether or not to participate. 
  • The Government will be setting the outcomes required for online voting systems in regulations. Councils will be responsible for meeting these requirements. 
  • Any online voting will need to be secret, accurate, available; and reliable, auditable, verifiable, and secure. 
  • There are many hurdles to cross. It will also be necessary for councils to procure providers to run online voting, to set up and test online voting, and prepare voters for online voting. 
  • I am committed to increasing civic participation, and progressing online voting trials is a key part of this priority. I regret that this was unable to be achieved for this years elections.

     
    Māori representation

  • With diversity comes strength. I have consistently signalled the need for greater collaboration between central and local government and iwi, and the Government’s determination to maintain a healthy democratic representation on behalf our communities.
  • But it’s more than that. As the Māori economy grows, there is huge benefit to regional economies. And if we think about the intergenerational profile of iwi organisations – their investment decisions often have a distinct regional/ domestic to New Zealand profile. They are a good buffer to preserve the ‘public interest’ when the economy dips. Iwi as an intergenerational investor is an advantage for any region.
  • I put a challenge to the sector that local leadership would be required to give effect to Māori representation. I applaud the effort and courage of councils who did just that. While achieving Maori seats did not eventuate, some councils have continued to push for Māori participation on regulatory committees. Well done – keep going.

Funding and financing of local government

  • Running in parallel with the Three Waters Review, the Productivity Commission is undertaking an inquiry into local government funding and financing.
  • It recently finished publicly consulting on an initial issues paper, and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to make a submission.
  • The Commission is now beginning work on a draft report, likely to be released in mid-2019, and intends to publish its final recommendations by November.
  • This work is vital, as the design of local government funding and financing will have a significant impact on the success of any required changes to the wider system of local government, as well as informing the outcomes of other initiatives, such as the Three Waters Review. There is also the infrastructure funding and financing work underway for high-growth councils added to the mix.
  • A functional and future-proof funding system is essential to successfully responding to wider challenges including water infrastructure, ensuring community wellbeing and mitigating natural hazards.
  • To help support the response to the Commission’s recommendations, officials will look to engage with the sector about the challenges facing the existing local government funding and financing model, and what a fit-for-purpose local government funding system would look like. 

Closing remarks

  • We have a busy programme of work ahead of us, and central and local government need to work together on it – each bringing our respective strengths to play.
  • Your knowledge, experience and expertise – along with your proximity to people, communities and place – will help us shape how we respond to the challenges facing local government.
  • Ultimately, our joint focus needs to be on how we can strengthen local government, and, in particular, your roles in delivering community wellbeing.
  • There is already a lot of existing and innovative solutions to achieving community wellbeing at the local level, including where councils have innovatively engaged with and empowered their communities.
  • I look forward to speaking further with local government, community groups and iwi to tap into these local solutions to take the conversation forward to a national level.
  • The recipient of the Minister of Local Government’s Award for Innovation in Council-Community Relations is a great example of one such solution.