In praise of localism

LGNZ logoLast month I attended the LGNZ conference on behalf of the Waitemata Local Board. I reported back on the conference at our August Board meeting.   Here is my pick of the best presentation from the conference.

A Global Perspective on localism

At a time when there have been unprecedented attacks on local government by the National government I thought Dr Oliver Hartwich presentation  A global perspective on localism was the most relevant of the conference.

In his view the decline of local Government is deplorable as there are many negative sides to centralisation.  There are philosophical and economic reasons to localise.  Dr Hartwich suggests we need to ask the question “not what LG might do but what is it we need of a central administration”. This is the basis of subsidiarity which he strongly supports as a liberal economist.

Local government is the best provider of services as it creates competition and ensures people have choices about where they want to live. NZ is unusual in  the amount of spending controlled by central government (89%), lower revenues and lags behind in local government investment. Central government is the best way to engage citizens and preserve individual freedoms but the upper tier is the least efficient and most detached.

Dr Hartwich argued that democracy works best with strong local government and that NZ should move in the same direction as the world trend toward localism.

Monthly Board report: December 2012

Rachel Brown, Len Brown and Pippa Coom at the Sustainable City Showcase2012 in Review
This is my last report for 2012. Looking back over the year I think it has been characterised by the significant progress we have made as a Board on our projects and initiatives following an inaugural year of planning and figuring out how the new Super City structure fits together. It has also become noticeable this year that the role of the Board is far better understood by the community. I think we have become the go to people on a huge range of local issues.

Inevitably there have been challenges and frustrations but personally I have found 2012 to be hugely enjoyable and rewarding. I have particularly welcomed all the opportunities to learn from international experts, to meet the people we represent and to fully take part in civic life.   I feel very privileged to represent such a dynamic, interesting and diverse area at the centre of Auckland.

I very much appreciate the skills and passion that officers bring to their role that has enabled local board projects to be advanced and implemented quickly.  We still have lots to do but I think we are fortunate to have a great board team with excellent leadership that will ensure 2013 is a good one.

Board activities for the period 1 November – 1 December 2012
Transport

A number of meetings were held with Auckland Transport during November. These are covered in the Auckland Transport monthly report and included:

  • the Board’s greenways aspirations and potential locations for AT to fund on-street routes
  • Update on a public bike hire scheme for Auckland
  • Draft Regional Public Transport Plan
  • Location of the bus stop outside Ponsonby Central

Good for business seminar
Good For BusinessIn February this year I asked Auckland Transport to consider bringing international expert Rodney Tolley to Auckland to be the key note speaker at a seminar aimed at our business associations and their members. I would like to thank Auckland Transport for making it happen and their work in organising the “Good for Business” seminar in partnership with the Board that was held on 28 November at the offices of AECOM.
Dr Tolley spoke about the economic benefits of investing in walkability to an audience of over 60 including representatives of business associations from across Auckland
My presentation that concluded the seminar is attached (Attachment A).

Community Funding
I represented the Board a the Central Joint Funding Committee meeting on 9 November that decided the allocation of grants from the Accommodation Support Fund, Cultural Heritage Fund and Community Group Assistance Fund (round one). These funds are legacy Council funds that following a recent decision by the Regional Development and Operations Committee are going to be rolled over for a further year (2013/14).
The minutes of this meeting are available online.

Local Government
LGNZ Zone 1 meeting
I attended the Local Government New Zealand Zone 1 meeting in Whangerei on 16 November (at no cost to the Board).
The presentations covered:
–       Alcohol Reform Bill – Charlotte Connell Senior Advisor Ministry of Justice – update on the Bill and what the changes to the supply and sale alcohol regime is likely to mean for TA’s
–       Mayor’s taskforce for jobs, Jan Francis
–       Strategic Plan introduced by Malcolm Alexander, CEO LGNZ
–       TRAFINZ update from Karen Hay
I found Malcolm’s presentation to be particularly interesting because of the energy, leadership and skills he is bringing to local government. The new strategic work plan has specific actions to bring about a brand shift to LG with LGNZ’s aim to be the Strong voice for great local government.
Malcolm intends presenting the LGNZ strategic plan to local board members next year.

Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill
I was extremely disappointed that the Government passed the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill on 28 November with the slimmest majority, with no mandate and no evidence what so ever that Councils are operating ineffectively and uneconomically because of the “four well-beings”
I agree with LGNZ’s President, Lawrence Yule assessment that in its drive to have councils move their focus away from the four well-beings, the Government has instead injected uncertainty into the law by increasing the scope for council decisions to be judicially reviewed.As Lawrence said on the day the Bill was passed “The lesson from this legislation is that processes that are not based on facts, principle and constructive dialogue between central and local government do not serve the public well.”

Building a Better Newmarket Seminar
I attended this one day seminar for members of the Newmarket Business Association and was invited to sit on the panel that concluded the day.
At the seminar Westfield New Zealand Director, Justin Lynch outlined plans for a proposed new retail development on the Dominion Motors/Levene Extreme/Farmers site which borders Mortimer Pass and Broadway. In addition to a proposed flagship 9,500 sqm Department store, 95 new specialty stores are planned, along with a six-screen cinema, gymnasium and 1,400 car additional parking spaces. Westfield is waiting for the right market conditions to commence the multi-million dollar complex.

NZTA Senior Urban Design Advisor, Jacque Bell presented on the draft master plan for the area under the Newmarket viaduct which provides for a mix of commercial and office space, active retail frontages, car parking buildings and multi-functional open space. Consultation is currently underway on the plans.

Other speakers included Dr Libby Weaver (building a better you), and Hon Stephen Joyce (the big picture)

Community empowerment and the strengthening of democracy
During November local board members had the opportunity to attend presentations by two international speakers on the related areas of participatory budgeting and building community capacity.

Giovanni Allegretti, an architect, planner and senior researcher at the Centre for Social Studies at Coimbra University (Portugal) spoke about the benefits of entrusting citizens to decide how to allocate Council budgets in his presentation on participatory budgeting.

The following week Jim Diers, who is internationally recognised for his work with communities, gave his presentation on the Power of Community and how to get people to cherish their government and strengthen citizen participation. He also gave examples of neighbourhood planning process and the value of community driven planning.

Support social enterprise A4 eInvite_Page_1Social Enterprise conference 26 November

The Social Enterprise conference was organised by the CDAC team with the support by the Waitematā Local Board, University of Auckland Business School, Mira Szászy Research Centre, and The Kitchen with the aim of supporting the sector, celebrating best practices and exploring initiatives to support social enterprises.

The conference included Pecha Kucha style presentations from a number of social enterprises based in the Waitemata Local Board area.

Key speakers included:

  • Di Jennings, Community Economic Development Trust
  • Nicky Benson, New Zealand Centre for Social Innovation
  • Andrew Hamilton, ICEHOUSE
  • Assoc. Prof. Manuka Henare University of Auckland Business School

The CDAC team are to be congratulated on successfully organising the conference.

My welcome on behalf of the Board is attached (Attachment B)

Local Board workshops and meetings

Attended during November:

  • Parks Renewals Programme – Workshop on 1 November
  • Community leases meeting 1 November
  • Meetings to finalise the Board’s Unitary Plan report on 1 November, 5 and 12  November
  • One to one engagement meetings on the Unitary Plan with key community groups. I attended the following:
    o   Westmere Heritage Projection Group on 1 November
    o   GLBA and Grey Lynn 2030 on 5 November
    o   Western Bays Community Group on 5 November
    o   Newmarket Business Association on 7 November
    o   Parnell Community Committee on 7 November
    o   NZ Historic Places Trust on 8 November
    o   Parnell Heritage on 12 November
  • Local Board workshop on 6 November (Thriving communities discussion document , Pioneers Women’s Hall redevelopment and Pt. Erin Pools)
  • Communications update on 6 November
  • Meeting on 7 November with Team Leader, Community Facilities to discuss Parnell Trust’s request for financial assistance
  • Meeting with Auckland Transport and Council officers to discuss the Board’s Greenways priorities on 7 November
  • Workshop with Auckland Transport on the Draft Regional Public Transport Plan to assist with preparing the Board’s submission on the plan
  • Meeting with Auckland Transport to discuss the options for the location and design of the bus stop outside Ponsonby Central on Ponsonby Road
  • Meeting with Julie Fairey, Community spokesperson,  Puketapapa Local Board
  • Central Joint Funding Committee meeting on 9 November
  • Waitemata Local Board business meeting at Graham Street on Tuesday 13 November in Parnell
  • Meeting with Auckland Transport to discuss portfolio processes
  • Introduction to the new reporters for the Central Leader and the Auckland City Harbour News on 15 November
  •  Meeting on 15 November to discuss the City Centre Noise Management Action Plan 2012-2015 and how Waitemata Local Board can respond in support of the latest Noise Report to the Unitary Plan submission process and what actions can be initiated going forward through the Noise Action Plan
  •  Waitemata Christmas event organisation in Western Park meeting on 15 November
  • Resource Recovery Centre workshop with transition town groups looking to support the development of a centre – hosting by Puketapapa Local Board on 15 November with Warren Snow
  • LGNZ Zone One meeting in Whangerei on 16 November
  • Meeting with the Central Relationship Managers to discuss options for dealing with applications for Facilities Partnership funding on 19 November
  • Financial information and support for Local Boards meeting prior to the Chair’s forum on 19 November (part attended for the Chair )
  • GLBA meeting on 20 November
  •  Local Board workshop on 20 November
  • Meeting with Auckland Transport to receive an update on the Public Bike Hire scheme  on 22 November
  • Meeting and site visit at Auckland Cathedral of the Holy Trinity on 22 November with Christopher Dempsey
  • Participatory Budgeting presentation by international guest, Giovanni Allegretti. on 23 November
  • Waipapa Stream project update on 23 November
  • Grey Lynn Park Advisory Group meeting on 26 November
  •  Breakfast presentation by Jim Diers for elected representative on 27 November
  • Local Board workshop on 27 November to discuss the Board’s draft annual agreement
  •  Ports of Auckland Briefing to Local Boards on 27 November
  • Good for Business seminar on 28 November
  • Transport portfolio monthly meeting with Auckland Transport (informal catch up)

Events and functions
I attended the following events and functions during November:

  • Cycle Action’s Associates breakfast on 1 November
  • Square Art – opening of the art exhibition in Station Square as part of the Newmarket Festival
  • Art in the Dark event on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 November
  • Highwic House Cycle Style (part of the Festival of Flowers) on 18 November
  • Taste Auckland at Victoria Park on 18 November (at the invitation of Taste Auckland)
  • Opening of Ponsonby Central on 20 November
  • Building a better Newmarket conference hosted by the Newmarket Business Association
  • Grey Lynn Business Association AGM (I have been re-elected to the Board )
  •  Sustainable Business Network’s  Sustainable City Showcase 22-24 November including:
    o   SBN Sustainable Business Awards
    o   Conscious consumer breakfast
    o   Ethical Fashion Show
    o   Walk around with Cr Mike Lee
    o   Carrot mob launched by Mayor Len
  • Social Enterprise Conference organised by CDAC on 26 November
  • Regional Facilities Auckland Limited’s end of year drinks for  Local  Board  Chairs and Deputy Chairs at the Auckland Art Gallery on 28 November
  •  Cycle Action Auckland Christmas gathering in support of Bikes for refugees
  • Invite from Royal NZ Ballet – RNZB season of Giselle on 30 November
  • Ponsonby Market Day on 1 December
  • Launch of the Franklin Road Christmas lights at the Rob Roy plaza on 1 December

Progress for progressive values in Waitemata

City Vision media release

1 November 2012

City Vision teamWith one year until the local government election, elected representatives from City Vision in Waitemata are pleased with their achievements promoting progressive policies since the new council was established.

The new Auckland Council came into existence two years ago and at that time many people worried it would mean local communities would lose their voice. “We’ve been fighting to make sure the new structure looks after our local communities,” says City Vision member of the Waitemata Local Board Shale Chambers.

“Progressive elected members on the Governing Body and Local Boards of Auckland Council have had their shoulders to the wheel delivering better public transport, keeping rates fair, protecting heritage and the environment, and supporting investment in our local communities.

Mr Chambers was speaking to launch the two year accountability report for City Vision in Waitemata. He says City Vision and supporting groups (made up of Labour, Greens and community independents) have been working together to try and make the new unified governance structure a success.

“We think it’s important to communicate what we have been doing at the same time as listening to what people think is important about their city. Many people tell us they’re pleased to see progressive values becoming embedded in Auckland.

“Many people had strong reservations about the ‘Supercity’ at the time of its creation, and while concerns remain, we’re working to bring Auckland together, end the negative do-nothing politics of the past and give our communities a voice.

The report covers the Waitemata Local Board and Waitemata & Gulf Islands Ward. Reports have also been produced for the Albert-Eden Local Board, the Puketapapa Local Board, and the Albert-Eden-Roskill Ward. The reports show our elected members delivering on their election commitments, including:

  • Being staunch advocates for public ownership of public assets by fighting off attempts to privatise the airport, ports and water utility      company from Communities & Ratepayer representatives
  • Advocating for stronger environmental and heritage protection standards
  • Prudent financial oversight and working to reduce the impact of the government’s amalgamation on rates
  • Strongly pushing for better public transport, including the City Rail Link
  • Supporting decision making at the local level to ensure local communities continue to see investment in their areas

“While some on Council have chosen to snipe from the sidelines and play negative political games, we have focussed on the issues that matter for Aucklanders.

“Two years since the establishment of the new Auckland Council we are proud of our achievements, but also see much to be done. The disastrous Ports dispute must be solved fairly, CCOs need to be opened up to more public scrutiny, Local Boards need more equitable funding, the government should support our public transport agenda and Council must hold its nerve on the vision of a quality compact city. Our elected members will continue to speak up for our communities on all of these issues”, says Shale Chambers.

ENDS

Notes*

City vision has produced 3 separate two year accountability reports covering Waitemata, Albert-Eden and Puketapapa. Around 90,000 reports in total have been produced for the whole area.

City Vision is Auckland’s progressive local body political group. It represents the local Labour and Green parties and progressive community independents.

In the 2010 first “super city” election City Vision stood candidates for the Waitemata Local Board, Albert Eden Local Board, Albert-Eden-Roskill Ward councillors. City Vision endorsed Councillor Mike Lee for the Waitemata & Gulf Ward and supported Roskill Community Voice for the Puketapapa Local Board and Labour in Maungakiekie-Tamaki.

Waitemata Local Board – 5 City Vision members (out of 7) led by Chair, Shale Chambers with Pippa Coom, Deputy Chair and members Christopher Dempsey, Jesse Chalmers and Tricia Reade

Albert Eden Local Board – 5 City Vision members (out of 8 from 2 subdivisions) led by Chair, Peter Haynes

Puketapapa Local Board – 2 Roskill Community Voice members (out of 6) led by member Michael Wood

Albert-Eden-Roskill Ward – Councillor Cathy Casey (1 of 2 Councillors)

Waitemata & Gulf Ward – Councillor Mike Lee

www.cityvision.org.nz

Back your own horse call to Government

On 5 September I joined the Auckland Council delegation speaking to the Council’s submission on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill at the Local Government and Environment Select Committee Hearings

I spoke after the Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.  There was a short item about the presentation on Checkpoint Council weary of changes to local government act Radio NZ  5 September 2012

Tena Kotou Katoa

My name is Pippa Coom. I am Deputy Chair of the Waitemata Local Board – the Board covering the central city and inner suburbs of Auckland. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee today to speak on behalf of the Board’s submission that forms part of the Auckland Council’s response to the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill.

I wish to speak specifically in relation to the proposed consequential changes to the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 that fundamentally alters the purpose of Local Boards and the concerns this raises about the impact on local decision making and the role of local boards in contributing to community well-being.

This Act was intended to strengthen local democracy and community engagement based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission. As Nikki Kaye, MP for Central Auckland said at the third reading of the Act – the new structure will deliver “strong local boards so that people can better influence what goes on in their community”.

In my experience it is only now –after almost 2 years – that Aucklanders are coming to grips with the new structure of local government in the region and to appreciate the role of their local board.  Local board members have become the go to people for local issues.  Without a doubt there have been many transitional issues and challenges but local democracy and grass roots engagement have been one of the success stories of the amalgamation. Local boards are strengthening their communities, undertaking place-making, and in other ways supporting or improving the life of their citizens as encompassed by the “four well-beings”. Local boards within the Auckland Council structure are best placed to understand and advocate for the aspirations of their communities.

It therefore seems completely at odds to have supported the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act and set up the structure for strong local boards to now propose to effectively make Local Boards redundant.  What is proposed will make the local boards a local service delivery agency and many current activities could be interpreted to fall outside the proposed new purpose.

I think the best way to illustrate this is with regards to local board plans. Within the last year we have engaged extensively with our communities to develop a local board plan that sets out the aspirations and priorities of the people and businesses in our local areas for the next three years and beyond. As we support the need for local government activities to be undertaken in a cost effective manner we have been fiscally prudent and maintained a balanced budget.  The majority of our projects are low cost but that will have high impact in terms of building strong local communities. There is no doubt that our activities complement and facilitate the role of central government and the private sector.  We are not aware of any evidence to suggest that local boards are acting ineffectively or have diverted into areas more appropriately covered by central government.

However these plans contain a wide range of activities, some of which may sit outside the narrow focus of the new purpose statement for local boards.  To give just one example-  there is strong local support within our area community gardens and fruit tree planting. Through a combination of volunteer labour, donated trees, a small local board contribution and support from the parks team we are holding a community planting day to kick off an orchard in a local park.

The lawyer in me can’t but help but point out that fruit tree planting is not “good quality local infrastructure”; it is not strictly a “public service” and it is not being undertaken in the “performance of a regulatory function”. But it is an activity that will strengthen the community and have lasting benefits.

As a lawyer I could go through our local board plan and argue that on every page there are initiatives that fall outside the proposed new purpose for local boards – all initiatives that will be of no interest to Central government or the private sector but matter to our communities.

We have therefore requested in our submission to you that no change is made to the purpose of local boards before the new structure has been given an opportunity to be fully tested. If Aucklanders don’t agree with the direction of their local boards then the election next year is the appropriate mechanism for change. I ask those in government to back your own horse as you put it in place less than 2 years ago – to fully support local democracy, and local decision making by maintaining the current function and purpose of local boards.

 

Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill Submission

The government’s proposed changes to the purpose of local government are poorly thought through.    It especially makes no sense to change the purpose of Local Boards when they have been in existance for less than 2 years. Submissions close today. My submission focuses on the impact of the Bill on the role of local boards.

Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill Submission

I wish to make a submission on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill strongly opposing the introduction of the new purpose statement and the removal of the four well beings from the 2002 Act. I am particularly concerned about the impact of the proposed changes on the role of Auckland Council’s 21 local boards.

I make this submission in my personal capacity but draw on my experience as Deputy Chair of the Waitemata Local Board, Auckland Council in providing my comments on the Bill.

The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance identified two systemic problems – fragmented regional governance and poor community engagement. Addressing the first of these issues was the principal rationale underlying the establishment of Auckland Council, while the creation of 21 local boards as part of the council structure was the primary means of addressing the issue of poor community engagement.
Under the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 local boards are a key part of Auckland’s governance, enabling local representation and decision making on behalf of local communities. Local boards within the Auckland Council structure are best placed to understand and advocate for the aspirations of their communities.

Local boards have been in existence for less than two years and in that time have developed, following extensive consultation, aspirational plans with their communities that reflect local priorities and preferences. These plans contain a wide range of activities, some of which may sit outside the narrow focus of the new purpose statement for local boards.

For example the Waitemata Local Board plan covers a whole range of projects that could be interpreted to fall outside the proposed purpose of local boards such as local events, community gardens, fruit tree planting in local parks, support for local business associations, installation of water fountains, and community-led waste minimisation projects to name but a few.

I support the need for local government activities to be undertaken in a cost effective manner. However there is no evidence at all to suggest that the well beings have caused a blowout in local government costs.

There is also no evidence that local boards are acting ineffectively or have diverted into areas covered by central government. Most local projects are low cost but highly effective at building strong local communities. The activities of local boards complement and facilitate the role of central government and the private sector.

I am concerned that just as local boards are starting to find their feet that the proposed change to their purpose will undermine their autonomy and their ability to deliver on their communities’ priorities as set out in their three year plans. Local boards may be required to re-write their local board plans before they have been in place for even one full three year term.

Furthermore the proposed changes to the Act will undermine the Auckland government reorganisation and the concept of co-governance on which it is founded.

I therefore strongly oppose the introduction of the new purpose statement and strongly oppose a change to the role of local boards before the new structure has been fully tested and allowed to work.

I wish to appear before the committee to speak to this submission.