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Hearings on local govt Bill should be re-opened

Published: Wed 25 Sep 2002 12:45 AM
Hearings on local government Bill should be re-opened
The critical importance of the Local Government Bill requires it should have been sent back through a public Select Committee process, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says.
A petition is underway to stop the Bill and the Local Government Forum including Business New Zealand, Federated Farmers and others is calling for substantial changes to it.
"EMA Northern's position is the Bill has such wide implications for our business and economic growth that the Select Committee of the new Parliament should conduct new public hearings on it," said Alasdair Thompson, EMA's chief executive.
"We do not believe democracy is well served by allowing the new Parliament to take responsibility for the passage of the Bill based on the recommendations of the former Parliament.
"Business is concerned the Bill lacks effective checks on councils' exercise of greatly increased powers.
"Under the provision of 'general competence' councils will be empowered to do anything they decide with relative ease and without adequate accountability.
"The Bill allows an almost unfettered right for councils to take investment risks, run businesses, and even compete with central government in providing social services. In a small country like ours, this would lead to costly duplication.
"Councils would be able to start businesses in competition with their own rate payers, relying in part on the same ratepayers' underwriting or funding them.
"Though councils will be required to consult with their communities as they have since 1989, this has proved to be an inadequate restraint.
"For example EMA Northern has for years submitted well reasoned documents on many Draft Council Plans but few councils make even the slightest changes to their plans.
"Business supports the efficient and effective work of our councils on behalf of their communities.
"The objective of resisting this Bill, and of our submissions, is always to ensure local government is accountable and cost effective in the provision of infrastructural services on which our standard of living and economic growth depends."

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