A survey of the 720 people who attended Infrastructure NZ’s Building Nations symposium 3 weeks ago indicates three-quarters of them want the Government to transform the relationship between central & local government, rather than make incremental change.
Infrastructure NZ’s new chief executive, Paul Blair, said participants were polled after each session on current & proposed policies, and the majority wanted the Government to transform “the culture & incentives between central & local government to work together to promote national wellbeing.
“Respondents overwhelmingly supported more tools for local & regional governments in order to unlock the full potential of our regions.
“Only 2% of respondents believed that water provision should remain in its current state.
“66% of respondents agreed that water services should not be owned by local councils and instead be delivered by regulated Watercare-type entities [Watercare Services Ltd is owned by Auckland Council].
“City & regional deals, where central & local governments partner to drive regional economic development, also received particularly strong support, with 98% of respondents believing the approach would be useful in our context.
“A core contributor to our governments’ inability to respond to complex, multi-faceted issues such as housing affordability & transport needs is a culture where central & local government lack trust and, in fact, often compete with each other.
“The city deal model incentivises regional governments with the money & the responsibility to take faster, localised action on the outcomes that matter to communities & the country. It builds a more collaborative relationship.
“65-74% of respondents supported a redistribution of central government’s gst, or income & corporate tax revenue, to local governments.
“Our political system has evolved to the point where central government takes 93% of all taxes & rates revenue, leaving only 7% for local & regional authorities. This is highly unusual internationally.
“Our proposal, which almost three-quarters of respondents supported, would double the current $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund into a $6 billion regional growth fund and use it as a tool to align central & local government investment.
“An additional $3 billion over the next 3 years to regions who co-operate to develop spatial plans would drive regional growth & development for the benefit of the nation as a whole.
“Central government would trial this responsibility-sharing through a city deal-type arrangement where regions would be funded if they commit to and deliver on complex system-wide outcomes such as adequate housing supply, reliable transportation networks, healthy waters & economic performance.”
The group chief executive of engineering consultancy & survey sponsor Beca Ltd, Greg Lowe, said: “We are not keeping pace with the infrastructure needs of our country & our communities – we need to be able to move together, both public & private sector, to plan & deliver quality infrastructure at a faster pace.
“New Zealanders want to see their tax dollars invested in projects & outcomes that will improve how we live, work & play in our communities. Encouraging stronger partnership between central & local government would lead to better decisions & more effective funding for regional infrastructure.
“Better long-term planning and a transparent project pipeline will improve New Zealand’s productivity and strengthen our economy. It will lessen the impact of political change and encourage industry to invest with confidence in upskilling our people and creating more jobs in our communities.”
Infrastructure NZ report, August 2019: Building regions: A vision for local government, planning law & funding reform
Attribution: Infrastructure NZ release.