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Roadmap for reinvigorating local democracy launched
7 July 2019
Roadmap for reinvigorating local democracy launched
Over 600 local and central government delegates, including the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, were on hand to hear LGNZ president Dave Cull launch a roadmap to greater localism – ‘Reinvigorating Democracy: The case for localising power and decision making to councils and communities,’ at the opening of the LGNZ Conference in Wellington this afternoon.
 
Speaking to the theme of the conference, “Riding the localism wave: Putting communities in charge”, Mr Cull spoke of the need to give communities more say in the important decisions that affect their lives if New Zealand is to make meaningful progress on the tough challenges facing our society today.
 
“For too long New Zealand has operated under the belief that we’re a small, homogenous country, so it makes sense to concentrate decision making in the Beehive. That’s a formula for one-size-fit all, top-down decision making,” said Mr Cull.
 
“Unfortunately that formula no longer works for New Zealand, if it ever did. It is now starkly clear that the needs of communities in Auckland are starkly different from their immediate neighbours in Northland and the Waikato, let alone those of Gisborne, Taranaki, Marlborough, or Invercargill – and our policy responses need to be flexible to enough to respond to this.”
 
“But that’s a complexity our highly centralised governance structure struggles to respond to, and it costs us dearly as a nation. It drags on our productivity, raises transaction costs, widens inequality, and frustrates individuals and communities who want to improve their own well-being.”
 
“If we want to meaningfully tackle these challenges, it is time to let go and give power back to communities. The answer to the problems caused by centralised decision making cannot be more centralisation.”
 
LGNZ’s localism discussion paper set a proposed framework by which decision making can be handed back to communities in phased and gradual way that ensures greater local decision making is matched by improved capacity and capability of institutions, like councils, to meet these needs.
 
Developed and refined with the input of hundreds of local elected members, academics, business people, iwi, social sector groups, and civic minded individuals, it is being opened to the wider public for comment and input.
 
Mr emphasised that greater localism posed a challenge for local government as well, as it required councils to also devolve decision making to communities.
 
“Localism is about giving decision making power back to individuals, communities, iwi, neighbourhoods, districts and regions, and local and central government are the tools by which we act on those decisions, not the other way round.”
 
Mr Cull urged central government not to see localism as a challenge, but an opportunity to partner up and meaningfully improve the well-being of New Zealand’s diverse communities.
 
“Our localist framework recognises that each tier of government has its respective strengths and weaknesses,” said Mr Cull.
 
“Local government cannot hope to match the concentrated expertise and resources of central government. Nor can central government match the on-the-ground presence, diversity and the proximity to communities that local government has.”
 
“By working together, and putting communities at the heart of our decision making processes, we can tackle the really tough problems facing us, like environment degradation, climate change, and inequality. Your goals are our goals - we want to ensure that lives of future New Zealanders continue to improve compared the generation that came before them, and that can only be achieved if we work together.”
 
LGNZ are calling for submissions on the discussion paper, which will help LGNZ promote localism during the build up to the 2020 Parliamentary elections.  For more information on LGNZ’s decentralisation and localism project, go to www.localism.nz, or to make a submission, please send comments or feedback to LGNZ Principal Policy Advisor Dr Mike Reid at mike.reid@lgnz.co.nz by 15 December 2019.
 
Updates on the 2019 LGNZ Conference can be found on LGNZ’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, using the hashtags #LocalismNZ and #LGNZ19.
 
LGNZ president Dave Cull’s speech can also be found here.