Major changes are coming with the Labour government giving itself unprecedented powers over local government. This worries KCDC Councillor Bernie Randall and Guy Burns, Deputy Chair of the Paraparaumu/Raumati Community Board who are calling for local government to be entrenched within the New Zealand Constitution Act.
They say there are big perils ahead in the Three Waters plan which is being fast-tracked. This intends to take control of drinking water, stormwater and waste water away from local councils and new bureaucracy created to administer them centrally. There are also big changes signalled to the Resource Management Act as well as a major review into the future of local government. These changes diminish local decision making.
Labour in government has never been afraid of its local government counterparts. Parliament could abolish all 78 councils if it really wanted to. Such powers were last used in 1989 when parliament amalgamated 817 local bodes into 86.
The concentration of power in the central government will weaken accountability by elected local representatives and make local leaders dependent on the whims of central government bureaucrats and ministers. Having the principles of local government entrenched into a Constitution will forestall any attempt to diminish local government in favour of centralised rule.
The New Zealand Constitution Act 1986 could be amended to recognise and strengthen local government’s role in the governance of the nation. A statute which is fixed cannot be changed unless that change is supported by 75 per cent of parliamentarians. Councillor Bernie Randall and Deputy Chair Guy Burns believe that the Local Government Act should be entrenched.
Councils represent all the people of New Zealand. In 2013 local authorities voted unanimously in support of a remit that local Government New Zealand promote an amendment to the Constitution Act 1986 giving constitutional expression to local government. Such change is commended as local government must be safe-guarded from any future constitutional arrangements that will emerge out of the current major reviews and plans currently being dictated.