Local Government Minister Chris Tremain announced changes on Wednesday to ensure councils undertake longer-term infrastructure planning, while streamlining other planning requirements.
This Government proposal is in contrast to moves to hurry up residential development in Auckland under the housing accord and Resource Management Act reforms, which have the potential to bypass infrastructure planning and lead to more greenfields development.
Mr Tremain said: “While many councils are managing their assets well, law changes are needed to ensure that all councils are taking the long-term perspective needed. The Government will make it mandatory for local councils to undertake strategic asset management planning. This is fundamental good practice.
“We will also require councils to incorporate 30-year infrastructure strategies into long-term plans. These plans currently only cover a 10-year horizon. Councils will need to plan for growth & investment over a longer period and provide this information to their communities.
“Local authorities own $96 billion in fixed assets & infrastructure such as stormwater, sewerage, roading & flood protection. These assets also have a very long life – water pipes last for 60-100 years. These assets need to be managed well in order to provide communities with essential services.
“Councils will now also need to disclose the value of the insurance cover they hold, any financial risk sharing arrangements and any self-insurance schemes.
“At the same time, we will remove other requirements that increase the costs & compliance burden on councils. This includes:
- streamlining annual plans and removing the need to reconsult on matters that have already been consulted on
- introducing streamlined, focused consultation documents rather than basing public consultation on technical & overly detailed documents
- providing greater flexibility about methods & frequency of consultation.
“These changes are part of our programme of reform since 2010 to reduce red tape for local councils. The changes will also improve transparency & the quality of information available to local communities.”
Council for Infrastructure Development chief executive Stephen Selwood said those changes would be an improvement but didn’t go far enough: “To maximise the effectiveness of local authority services, development of a 30-year spatial plan to guide & manage growth should be undertaken alongside long-term infrastructure investment planning.
“While long-term asset management across councils is generally good, it is not uncommon to see robust plans being compromised by annual budget processes, causing projects around the country to be deferred, downsized or cancelled in an effort to limit short-term rates increases.
“Consequently, we see good quality asset management practices compromised by electoral cycles, creating a bow wave of investment that future ratepayers have to meet.
“The local government infrastructure efficiency expert advisory group, in its report to the Government released this year, recommended moving to a regional planning scheme with a firm hierarchy of long- & short-term plans.
“30-year spatial plans would set out a long-term growth strategy. The infrastructure strategy would ensure that the investment & renewals programme supports planned development backed by good asset management practice. Council long-term plans would then provide the 10-year budget allocation to allow implementation of the strategy. Annual report processes would monitor progress and provide transparency to ratepayers.
“The planning changes identified today will help address the disjoint between long-term community & council aspirations & implementation. Better presentation of data and improved engagement processes should also help communities to participate in planning and strengthen support for investment programmes, not only within but across electoral cycles.”
Attribution: Ministerial & CID releases.