Submitted by email to [email protected] as additional info to webform
Submission – Local Government Reform in Wellington
This is a submission from an organisation, the Kapiti Coast Chamber of Commerce Inc, “the Chamber”. The Chamber has 265 members and exists to support and encourage integrated business growth which creates wealth and employment on the Kapiti Coast. While we are situated on the Kapiti Coast, we have a broader view and recognise the importance of the success of the whole Wellington region as a vital part of New Zealand. The Chamber is a part of the New Zealand and international network of Chambers of Commerce.
The Chamber believes there is a need for change and supports the two-tier model.
The Wellington region as a whole has a lot to offer the economy and social fabric of New Zealand, but risks under-achieving if it cannot act in a more unified manner, with improved decision making, more effective allocation of resources and a stronger single voice on regional and national issues.
The following are a list of points we wish to submit for consideration.
Support for Change
We believe that there is strong support for change in the Kapiti business community. Over the last 18 months or so our formal and informal feedback mechanisms have shown consistent support for change and recognition that the Wellington region has the potential to be better off if councils are amalgamated. This said, there have also been some reservations about three main aspects:
- Scepticism in over whether reforms would actually deliver the benefits desired.
- Concern over Kapiti “losing out” because it is physically remote from Wellington city and decisions are made without due cognisance of effects here.
- Transitional arrangements such as rating changes, balance sheets amalgamations.
Fear of loss of identity and management from afar
The balancing factor in Kapiti for many people against the potential gains from amalgamation are concerns about loss of local identity and ability to have a say in local and regional matters. It is critical that these concerns are addressed, recognising that the Wellington regional communities are geographically separated. It is one of the reasons the Chamber supports the two-tier model.
Efficient and Effective Not Bureaucratic and Costly
There is widespread dissatisfaction with the cost of local government at present. This general view is exacerbated by what the public sees – high staff numbers, lengthy and detailed processes and activities, long plans, convoluted and expensive approval processes – all of which cost money as evidenced by rate rises well in excess of inflation, and fees paid for consents, etc. It is vital that local government reform take cognisance of these factors and be seen to be addressing public concerns about the cost of local government. The Chamber understands that the primary aim of local government reform is effectiveness more than cost-saving, however there must be a clear focus on cost saving through creating an effective and efficient organisation, with savings delivered back through reduced rates. In Chamber surveys there has been very strong support for rates increases to be restricted to the rate of inflation, or just above it, and this should prove a worthwhile challenge for the Council to achieve.
While many Councils around the country utilise this tool to increase their revenue, we submit that it is not acceptable and that in the Wellington region, this is a good time to remove it. Under the Act, rates are raised in relation to services consumed. Businesses do not, on average, consume more council services and therefore a blanket rating differential cannot be justified. The Chamber believes that local targeted rates can be far more effective where specific reasons are identified and agreed by the business community. If differential ratings are going to be introduced to Kapiti, then this should be done under transitional arrangements.
Kapiti Coast employment needs
There has been a significant shift of population to the Kapiti Coast over the last few decades. There is strong demand for jobs on the Coast, yet relatively few available. Given that many people have made the choice to live here, there is an obligation to not disadvantage the fledgling economic growth currently being seen on the Coast by the imposition of disadvantages to businesses operating here compared to the current environment.
We would wish to see council functions based in Kapiti commensurate not just with the need for local service delivery, but with the relative proportion of the Wellington regions population which lives in Kapiti. Kapiti has good transport links for commuters and presents a location away from some of the risks of the Wellington CBD in the event of a disaster.
Submission by the Wellington Employers Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber broadly supports the points made in the WECC submission.