A friend of mine suggested that I should read the Local Government Act 2012, so I did.
This document is 442 pages (although 39 of those pages is a list of repealed Local Acts and Enactments).
It has 12 parts and 22 “Schedules”.
The 12 Parts Of The Local Government Act 2012
- Preliminary provisions
- Purpose of local government, and role and powers of local authorities
- Structure and reorganisation of local government
- Governance and management of local authorities and community boards
- Council-controlled organisations and council organisations
- Planning, decision-making, and accountability
- Specific obligations and restrictions on local authorities and other persons
- Regulatory, enforcement, and coercive powers of local authorities
- Offences, penalties, infringement offences, and legal proceedings
- Powers of Minister to act in relation to local authorities
- Regulations, other Orders in Council, and rules
- Consequential amendments, repeals, revocations, transitional provisions, and savings
The 22 Schedules Of The Local Government Act 2012
- Schedule 1AA: Application, savings, and transitional provisions relating to amendments to this Act made by the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Act 2014
- Schedule 1: Acts under which responsibilities, powers, and duties are conferred or imposed on Minister of Local Government and Secretary for Local Government
- Schedule 2: Local authorities
- Schedule 3: Reorganisation of local authorities
- Schedule 4: Provisions relating to Local Government Commission and its proceedings
- Schedule 5: Appeals against decisions of Local Government Commission
- Schedule 6: Constitution of communities
- Schedule 7: Local authorities, local boards, community boards, and their members
- Schedule 8: Statements of intent
- Schedule 9: Council-controlled organisations and transfer of undertakings
- Schedule 10: Long-term plans, annual plans, and annual reports
- Schedule 11: Matters relating to rates relief on Maori freehold land
- Schedule 12: Conditions of constructing or undertaking works on private land without the owner’s consent
- Schedule 13: Methodology for calculating development contributions
- Schedule 13A: Procedure relating to development contribution objections
- Schedule 14: Procedure for making removal orders
- Schedule 15: Powers of Minister [Repealed]
- Schedule 16: Consequential amendments
- Schedule 17: New Schedule of Receiverships Act 1993
- Schedule 18: Enactments [Repealed]
- Schedule 19: Local Acts [Repealed]
- Schedule 20: Orders in Council [revoked]
Here is my list of the 17 most interesting bits.
I use italics for quoting the Act directly.
Interesting bit #1: Maori Inclusion In Decisions
Section 14 Principles relating to local authorities
(d) a local authority should provide opportunities for Māori to contribute to its decision-making processes
I see evidence of this in my recent reading of the SmartGrowth strategy.
Interesting Bit #2: Council To Council Collaboration
14(e) a local authority should actively seek to collaborate and co-operate with other local authorities and bodies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency with which it achieves its identified priorities and desired outcomes.
The topic of merging the Tauranga City Council with the Western Bay of Plenty council comes up frequently.
Here, the act specifies that the entities should “actively seek to collaborate and co-operater” with each other, and as far as I can see from joint meetings that I have attended in Tauranga council chambers, the entities do seem to work well with each other.
And, again, from my study of the SmartGrowth strategy, there are several sub-committees with members from all 3 councils.
Interesting Bit #3: Every Decision Is Complicated
(f) in taking a sustainable development approach, a local authority should take into account
(i) the social, economic, and cultural interests of people and communities; and
(ii) the need to maintain and enhance the quality of the environment; and
(iii) the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations.
I’m struck here by how complex any and every issue becomes when taking all these factors into account, and the crushing consequences (possibly for decades) of making the wrong decision.
Interesting Bit #4: Effective, Open, Transparent Local Government
Section 39 Governance Principles
a local authority should ensure that the governance structures and processes are effective, open, and transparent
This seems like common sense, who would want governance structures and processes that are ineffective, closed and murky?
But I think this statement does more than state the obvious, it’s actually a goal to always be striving for.
Is the council always asking “How can we be more effective? More open? More transparent.”
It’s not an on/off switch.
I have an interest in open data and open government and I’ll be exploring these in my research soon.
Interesting Bit #5: Considering Options
Section 77 Decision Making
Requirements in relation to decisions (1) A local authority must, in the course of the decision-making process, –
(a) seek to identify all reasonably practicable options for the achievement of
the objective of a decision; and
(b) assess the options in terms of their advantages and disadvantages; and
(c) if any of the options identified under paragraph (a) involves a significant decision in relation to land or a body of water, take into account the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral land, water, sites, waahi tapu, valued flora and fauna, and other taonga.
This made me wonder, on what basis do you and I form our opinions on?
A lot of the time, its gut feeling and we rely on our own life experience.
Sometimes, media coverage on the issue influences what we think.
But it’s very rare for you and I to seek out source documents, reports and research and to then go out and interview those with specialist knowledge.
But that’s what a councillor needs to do.
I get asked my opinion on various issues during my home visits, and early on I jumped straight into and offered my un-informed opinion just like everyone else does, but since then I’ve taken the time to research a handful of issues to a reasonable level of detail (rubbish/recyling and rates), and now I don’t like to offer my opinion very often because I’ve come to realise how complex every issue is.
The bottom line is, I’m no longer in a hurry to make up my mind quickly on things, I want to be well informed and keep an open mind until I have sifted through all the options.
To me, that’s what this section in the Act is advising me to do, keep an open mind, and gather the information before arriving at a decision.
Interesting Bit #6: Participating In Council Decisions Via Audiovisual Link
Section 83 Special Consultative Procedure
For the purpose of, but without limiting, subsection (1)(d), a local authority
may allow any person to present his or her views to the local authority by way of audio link or audiovisual link.
I just thought this was interesting that members of the public don’t have to appear in the council chambers to be involved with discussions, but instead are permitted to join in via audio-visual link (which I assume to be Skype or a Skype equivalent).
Interesting Bit #7: The gravity of the Long-Term plan
Section 93 Long-term plan
(2) A local authority must use the special consultative procedure in adopting a long-term plan.
(4) A local authority may amend a long-term plan at any time.
(5) A local authority must use the special consultative procedure in making any amendment to a long-term plan.
I think this explains why the council seems to make such a big splash in the media and in its communications with the Long Term Plan, and amendments to it.
It is a key guiding document for the next 10 years and even though changes to it are allowed, the purpose of this section is to ensure the public have the opportunity to adjust the direction of it and what projects are allocated funds.
Interesting Bit #8: Decisions Are Not Pre-Determined
Section 96 Effect of resolution adopting long-term plan or annual plan
(1) The effect of a long-term plan and an annual plan adopted by a local authority is to provide a formal and public statement of the local authority’s intentions in relation to the matters covered by the plan.
(2) A resolution to adopt a long-term plan or an annual plan does not constitute a decision to act on any specific matter included within the plan.
Recently in the media, the Council is being accused of pre-determining decisions and only asking for public input as a formality.
I thought the wording on this statement was interesting. To me it’s saying, “just because something is included in the plan, there will be opportunity to discuss the details later and the council is open to all scenarios. It’s just a starting point for discussion, there is much more detail to follow.”
Interesting Bit #9: How Long Is Long-Term?
Section 101B Infrastructure strategy
(1) A local authority must, as part of its long-term plan, prepare and adopt an infrastructure strategy for a period of at least 30 consecutive financial years.
When I was reading through the infrastructure strategy I wondered where the time horizon came from.
Now I know.
Interesting Bit #10: Privatisation Of Water
Section 130 Obligation to maintain water services
a local government organisation must –
(a) not use assets of its water services as security for any purpose:
(b) not divest its ownership or other interest in a water service except to another local government organisation
(c) not lose control of, sell, or otherwise dispose of, the significant infrastructure necessary for providing water services in its region or district, unless, in doing so, it retains its capacity to meet its obligations
Recently, the Waikato took another step towards the formation of a Council-Controlled Organisation to manage water. The Act allows them to do this of course, but I haven’t really got my head around how transparent CCO’s are, so I will watch this with interest.
Interesting Bit #11: The Cost Of Accessing The Library
Section 142 Obligation to provide free membership of libraries
If a local authority or a council-controlled organisation provides a library for public use, the residents in the district or region are entitled to join the library free of charge.
During my home visits one resident suggested to me that the library should charge more than a few dollars for a library card and, instead, have an annual charge. She suggested the proceeds could be used to improve book supply and other services.
However, it appears that her idea is not possible because of this section in the Act.
Interesting Bit #12: Why are bylaws made?
Section 145 General bylaw-making power for territorial authorities
A territorial authority may make bylaws for its district for 1 or more of the following purposes:
(a) protecting the public from nuisance:
(b) protecting, promoting, and maintaining public health and safety:
(c) minimising the potential for offensive behaviour in public places.
I intend to become familiar with Tauranga City Councils bylaws shortly, so I found it interesting to read these 3 reasons why bylaws get created at all.
Interesting Bit #13: The Power To Enter Your Property
Section 171 General power of entry
If a local authority exercises the power under subsection (1) to enter unoccupied land or unoccupied buildings, the local authority must notify the owner –
(a) not less than 24 hours in advance of the intended entry if it is reasonably practicable to do so; or
(b) as early as reasonably practicable, whether before or after entry has been made.
I found the very last part of this section amusing. To paraphrase “we are allowed to enter your building and we’ll give you more than 24 hours notice, but if we can’t provide that much notice, we’ll tell you a few hours before, or we’ll just tell you after we’ve already been inside”.
Interesting Bit #14: The right to work under your home
Section 181 Construction of works on private land
(1) A local authority may construct works on or under private land or under a building on private land that it considers necessary for –
(a) the supply by territorial authorities of water by means of reticulated systems:
(b) the supply of water through water races:
(c) trade wastes disposal:
(d) land drainage and rivers clearance.
(2) A territorial authority may construct works on or under private land or under a building on private land that it considers necessary for sewage and stormwater drainage.
(3) A local authority or a territorial authority, as the case may be, must not exercise the power in subsection (1) or subsection (2) unless it has –
(a) the prior written consent of the owner of the land to the construction of the work; or
(b) complied with the requirements of Schedule 12.
I found this one interesting because even though the local authority can work under or on private land, it needs written consent from the land owner before beginning.
It made me wonder, what if the owner refuses?
Interesting Bit #15: Power To Acquire Your Land
Section 189 Power to acquire land
(1) A local authority may purchase, or take in the manner provided in the Public Works Act 1981, any land or interest in land, whether within or outside its district, that may be necessary or convenient for the purposes of, or in connection with, any public work that the local authority was empowered to undertake, construct, or provide immediately before 1 July 2003.
A person is entitled to full compensation from the local authority to the extent provided in the Public Works Act 1981.
I found the date of 1 July 2003 very confusing, but that aside, I do wonder what “full compensation” means?
I’ll have to read the Public Works Act 1981 to find out.
I did talk to home owner in Matua who was right in the middle of this negotiation process. The council was taking possession of his land (and several neighbours) and was going to demolish the house and convert the area into storm water drainage. The owner was very disappointed with the amount the council was offering. He believed it was well below the market rate and this amount was drastically reducing his buying power when finding a replacement home for his family. Bad enough to lose his home and made worse by having less less money than he thinks he should have to buy the next one.
Interesting Bit #16: Let’s Just Charge Developers More?
197AA Purpose of development contributions
The purpose of the development contributions provisions in this Act is to enable territorial authorities to recover from those persons undertaking development a fair, equitable, and proportionate portion of the total cost of capital expenditure necessary to service growth over the long term.
(b) development contributions should be determined in a manner that is generally consistent with the capacity life of the assets for which they are intended to be used and in a way that avoids over-recovery of costs allocated to development contribution funding
I found this interesting because I’ve heard suggestions from various people that we should target the “rich” property developers and increase their contributions to repay council debt levels faster.
(A property developer pointed out to me that those costs would be passed on to the new home owners anyway.)
Under the act, such inflation to the charges is not permitted anyway.
Interesting Bit #17: Who/What Are Crown Observers?
258B Minister may appoint Crown Observer (1) The Minister may appoint a Crown Observer to a local authority if –
(a) the Minister believes, on reasonable grounds, that a significant problem relating to the local authority exists
I found the idea of the central government appointing representatives into councils to observe and correct behaviour interesting. Even more interesting was the two recent examples I found.
The first was for Christchurch City Council. A Crown Observer was put in place (removed in 2012) to address a “lack of respect between councillors which led to a breakdown in trust and the blurring of the line between governance and management”.
The second was that the Kaipara Council, where the mayor and all councillors were removed from office in 2012 following “governance and financial challenges”. 3 Commissioners have been making the council decisions there ever since.
This year, almost 4 years later, an election will take place in the Kaipara and a Crown Manager and Crown Observer will be put in place to support the newly-elected Council as it settles in.
Have I miss-understood anything from these sections of the Act? Have you read it yourself? Should I read the Resource Management Act 1991 next or something else?
Have your say in the comments section below.