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The Better Local Services Bill

A select Committee is considering this bill which potentially threatens local democracy.

It proposes amalgamating council services by transferring water, stormwater and sewerage, to Council Controlled Organisations (CCO) without seeking agreement from Councils or the community. Northland has already commenced this on a voluntary basis with cooperation over road planning and maintenance. FNDC does already have a CCO, Far North Holdings, which seems to work quite satisfactorily.

The objection is not CCO’s per se but that a major change to the council asset base and service provision without either council or public consultation is bad democracy. Auckland had an example of the Port Authority seeking to reclaim land in the harbor which Auckland Council could not control since it had signed away its power to this commercial enterprise. Only public outrage stopped this.

Is big always best? The history of amalgamations and the claimed efficiency gains and cost minimisation are seldom realised. Is government itself a good model of efficiency? It seems doubtful that forming super ministries such as the Ministry of Primary Production which amalgamates fishing, agriculture and forestry is likely to be nimble footed and efficient. What is the evidence for it?

We should be wary of this new legislation but there does not seem to be a great awareness of what is being proposed and its possible effects.

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