Campaign for change

The Local Government Business Forum is launching a campaign to ensure the recently announced Productivity Commission Inquiry hears the perspectives of business and ratepayers and comes up with meaningful reform.

Despite 10 years of debate and numerous reports, the issue of future local government funding still has to be addressed.

Our campaign wants to put that right, but time is not on our side.

Councils’ draft Long Term Plans are revealing significant rate rises ahead. For example, Hawkes Bay Regional Council ratepayers face a 19% increase in the coming year based on the current draft.   Bay of Plenty Regional Council ratepayers face a 12.5% increase; Tauranga City, 9.7%; Hamilton City, 9.5%; Hurunui District, 8.5%; Dunedin City, 7.3% and Queenstown Lakes, 7%.  Rural communities in Manawatu District Council face a 23.5% increase!

There are good reasons for some of the increase in local government spending and rates over the years including the need for councils to renew or upgrade existing infrastructure and/or put in place new infrastructure to cater for growing populations.

However, there are also some bad reasons - including councils spending too much money on peripheral, ‘non-core’ services without connecting what these mean and what they will cost.

Recent examples of questionable expenditure that has made the media include:

  • $437,000 spent on Rotorua’s Mudtopia with free tickets. Plan to import mud from South Korea abandoned
  • Dunedin City Council spending more than $8,000 on a street mural of Ed Sheeran
  • Auckland Council spends $500,000 on a new brand
  • Auckland Council is spending $45 million running its various communications departments, which employ 234 staff
  • Auckland Council accountancy team hired image consultants to run “Brand Me” sessions for the back office team to learn about grooming at work, what to wear and smart-casual Fridays
  • Auckland Council spent $90,000 on a poll to reveal its citizens do not trust it to make the right decisions
  • Wellington City Council spends $51,000 on Sister City drag queen party
  • Westland District Council manager awarded cake decorator's firm $7 million contract to build sewage plant
  • Invercargill City Council's Christmas lights from China non-compliant with New Zealand standards
  • Figures from councils across the country show spending on Christmas decorations varies widely, from nothing at all to thousands every year.  The council that spent the most was Dunedin City Council, which has spent $661,020 since 2001. Christchurch City Council came in next, with $351,873 spent since 2014.  Several councils, including Auckland Council and many regional councils, had no expenditure on decorations