Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 19 July 2018

Celebrating local achievements

This week Deputy Mayor Tania McInnes and I joined around 600 local government staff and elected representatives to discuss the future of local government in Aotearoa New Zealand. With us at the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Annual General Meeting were Councillors Colin Kitchen and Kelly Stratford, Community Board member Rachel Smith, and Council CEO Shaun Clarke. The Christchurch gathering discussed numerous issues significant to Far North residents. These included 13 policy remits focused on infrastructure and funding, waste minimisation, climate change, the environment and a range of social issues. LGNZ represents all 78 councils in New Zealand and the organisation is now tasked with promoting these remits to central government, business leaders and community groups.

Of particular importance for Far North residents was the Minister of Finance Grant Robertson's announcement of an inquiry into local government funding. The Far North District Council is almost completely reliant on property rates to fund our services and infrastructure. Unlike other councils, we have no port, no major airport or any other big-ticket infrastructure assets that generate an alternative income stream. With our comparatively low number of ratepayers (many on fixed incomes), we struggle to fund infrastructure improvements and meet the demands now facing us. These include addressing climate change, more frequent extreme weather events, and the impact of increasing tourism on our facilities. The Minister has tasked the Productivity Commission to look at new ways councils like ours can fund existing and new infrastructure, and I look forward to their recommendations.

Taking greater control over funding and the direction of local government was a strong theme of the conference. Instead of relying on central government to decide what's good for our communities, LGNZ President Dave Cull suggested councils and communities need to make these decisions. I agree. It is those living and working in our communities who best understand the issues facing them and, very often, how to solve them.

Every year the great things we do in our communities are celebrated by the Local Government New Zealand EXCELLENCE Awards. This year saw the highest number of entries vying for six awards. Our project, Nga Kuri Auau o Kaikohe, which promotes responsible dog ownership, was highly commended by judges of the Fulton Hogan EXCELLENCE Award for Community Engagement. While we didn't get the win, we were one of 10 councils to win an award or to receive a commendation from judges. I was extremely proud of staff from across Council who so effectively encouraged dog owners to microchip and neuter their pets. The Nga Kuri Auau days held in Kaikohe and Kaitaia have already reduced the number of dog complaints we receive and the number unwanted puppies brought to our shelters.



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