Local democracy in NZ under review
As New Zealand's Covid response enters a critical stage, with rising cases in the past few days as well as more cases identified outside Auckland, there are fears that the “Covid for Christmas” jibes by two Ministers to political opponents may come back to haunt them.
Although it has never officially and explicitly confirmed its decision, the Government appears to have moved away from the elimination strategy and is now focused on reaching a high rate of vaccination coverage.
This saw the Prime Minister visiting the East Coast at the weekend where, along with watching two rugby matches, she pressed the case for vaccination.
Two government actions that will require future attention are its local government and electoral law reviews.
The independent review of local government has found a number of issues such as not enough funding and capacity, poor cohesion and collaboration, low diversity, mistrust between local and central government, and high demands on iwi without wellbeing outcomes.
The review says the key challenges local government faces over the next 30 years are climate change, environmental degradation, economic performance, poverty and inequality, housing, health and mental wellbeing, natural hazards, demographic change, pandemics and technology advances. It says local government needs to strengthen iwi and Maori partnerships under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
This is an interim report for what is a two-year project launched in April by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta. The next stage is for the review panel to set about providing answers to the many questions it has raised.
It is a sweeping document which will be viewed with alarm by some in local government who will see it as a forerunner of amalgamation.
Other critics say that many of the issues raised, such as poverty and inequality, fall under the umbrella of central government.
Mahuta is already locked in a conflict with local government over the three waters proposal.
Also last week Justice Minister Kris Faafoi announced a sweeping review of electoral law prior to the 2026 election. Targeted rule changes, including transparency around political donations and the ability for Maori to switch between electoral rolls, will be acted upon before the 2023 election.
As well as the dominating issue of Covid and how to respond to it, the Government has a lot of other issues on its plate.