According to an opinion piece on the Stuff website by by Phil Quin:-

“Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta put it to colleagues in a recent Cabinet paper, “rates are forecast to continue to rise at a faster rate than inflation, with the greatest part of this increase forecast to occur in the next three years”. As a result, she explains, “current funding and debt constraints are creating a barrier to local government delivering optimal services and achieving good outcomes”. Translation: councils can’t afford to do their job.

“Mahuta gets the diagnosis right – most, if not all, local bodies in New Zealand are on a fiscal knife-edge – but fails to propose any reform ambitious enough to treat the underlying malaise…

‘The [Geoffrey] Palmer reforms [of 1989] were perfectly attuned to the late 20th-century neoliberal moment, applying a hands-off corporate board model that vested operational authority (not to mention stupendous salaries) in newly powerful chief executives. By design, managers took charge, and elected members became heavily constrained in their ability to set and fund policy in any meaningful way.’

Kapiti ratepayers have seen that last problem well demonstrated, particularly during the reign of C.E. Dougherty whose attitude in effect was ‘it’s my way or the highway.’

But like Nanaia Mahuta, Phil Quin doesn’t propose anything to address the problem either.  One of the most obvious things for the government to do, as we’ve stated before, is to take the GST off rates, which is a tax on a tax.  If councils didn’t have to remit 13% of rates collected to the central government, that would give them a 15% boost to their revenues!

The issue of the central government requiring councils to indulge in unnecessary tasks or tasks which are appropriate to central government is one that Local Government NZ should take up forcefully.  We’ve seen this complaint mentioned more than once by Mayor Guru in his Kapiti News columns.

Phil Quin’s view that the costs of new infrastructure to cope with constant population growth (for example, Auckland’s population has increased from 1 million in 2000 to 1.7 million now) are not adequately met from existing ratepayers is correct — but shouldn’t property developers be meeting these?

We don’t know what property developers contribute in Kapiti because the discussions about them are always held in secret council sessions.  However, some individuals subdividing have told us that they’ve had to pay $20,000 per new lot.

Is Phil Quin saying that the existing situation where the sole employment responsibility of elected representatives is the C.E. who then becomes King of the Castle should change? That’s a tough one and a case can be made both ways.

What is clear in Kapiti: the next elected councilors are going to have to be much more resolute in having the management respect the principles in the Local Government Act — which Mayor Guru campaigned on in 2016, but has done nothing about.