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Local government meets to debate key issues at annual conference

This weekend close to 600 local and central government members will meet for the annual LGNZ Conference in Christchurch.

This weekend close to 600 local and central government members will meet for the annual LGNZ Conference in Christchurch.

This year’s theme is “We are firmly focused on the future: Future-proofing for a prosperous and vibrant New Zealand,” and the conference programme features a number of local government leaders, Ministers and international speakers on topics including building resilience in communities, localism and economic success, adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change, future-proofing our water infrastructure, and shaping the social wellbeing of our people.

Over three days, delegates from around the country will be involved in a range of events, workshops and talks, with speakers this year including Minister of Finance Grant Robertson, Minister for Climate Change James Shaw, Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta, Chair of Ofwat Jonson Cox (the economic regulator of the water sector in England and Wales), Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative Dr Oliver Hartwich, Sam Johnson and Daniel Flynn.

LGNZ President Dave Cull says this conference is a significant event for the sector to debate the significant issues impacting our communities.

“These are important issues for councils and their communities and future-proofing our communities is an apt topic to discuss given New Zealand’s challenges around impacts of climate change, population growth, burgeoning tourist numbers, lack of affordable housing and increasing social issues,” Mr Cull says.

The LGNZ Conference also includes the Local Government New Zealand Annual General Meeting on Sunday 15 July where twelve policy remits will be voted on.  There is a focus on infrastructure and funding, climate change, the environment and social issues.

Remits are voted on in a secret ballot and if passed will become official policy and be actioned by Local Government New Zealand.

The LGNZ AGM is open to members only.  Following the meeting, LGNZ will advise of the outcomes of all votes.

The remits are outlined below:

Rural roads policy for heavy commercial vehicles

Proposed by Ruapehu District Council, this remit asks that LGNZ pursue investigation of a Road Pricing Policy Statement for Land Transport to incentivise route selection for heavy commercial vehicles that encourages the most economically efficient use of the transport network over both Local Roads and the State Highway network.

The Council says that current Road User Fees and Charges regime incentivises the shortest transport distance from gate to port or processing plant to primary producer without assessment of the most economic, efficient and sustainable transport route and that this does not enable efficiency in the use of the transport network nor take into account resilience and safety.

Heritage buildings

This remit was proposed by Whanganui District Council and asks that LGNZ lobby the Government for greater support for, and protection of, heritage buildings via the following mechanisms: Revision of the Building (Earthquake-Prone Buildings) Amendment Act to change the ‘25% building work’ clause instead to trigger earthquake strengthening once a threshold of “25% of the Capital Value or $200,000, whichever is the greater” is reached to make this a more equitable provision for regional centres; an increase in the heritage fund; and provision of tax relief for heritage building upgrades.

Climate change advocacy to banks to transition to low- or zero-carbon investments

This remit asks that LGNZ advocate to all major banks that they transition away from investments in fossil fuel industries and consider opportunities for long-term investments in low- or zero-carbon energy systems.

Proposed by Greater Wellington Regional Council the remit is designed to reinforce the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration 2017, which advocated that “A clear and consistent pathway toward a low carbon and resilient future needs to provide certainty for successive governments, businesses and communities to enable transformative decisions and investments to be made over time.”

Climate Change Adaptation Fund

Following on from the findings and recommendations of the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group, Christchurch City Council asks that LGNZ call on central government to establish a Climate Change Adaptation Fund to improve local level and community participation in responding to climate change.

The impacts of climate change will be experienced New Zealand-wide with increased frequency and intensity of extreme events such as flooding, droughts, and increased coastal inundation.  Over the past year this has been felt particularly keenly by local government in coastal areas.  Adaptation to climate change is a necessary and ongoing process for decisions relating to infrastructure, urban development, biodiversity and land and water management and the cost and affordability of adaptation for communities, businesses and councils is a significant issue.

Drug testing in the community

Tasman District Council asks that LGNZ works with central government to develop a nationally consistent regime of waste water testing, to enable a solid basis for testing drug use in our communities.

The Council says testing wastewater is a straightforward and effective way to demonstrate the scale and nature of problems with illegal drugs within our communities.  The proposal would allow for the best utilisation of resources within the community to test for drugs and aims to provide all relevant services with the ability to identify the use of illegal harmful substances and identify the practices to reduce harm.

Local alcohol policies which reflect community preferences

Proposed by Christchurch City Council and Napier City Council, this remits asks that LGNZ seeks the Government’s agreement to amend the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 so that Local Alcohol Policies can more accurately reflect local community views and preferences.  It also asks that councils be given more policy levers to reduce alcohol-related harm to complement Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs).

There is strong community concern about the effects of the increasing number of alcohol sale outlets in many communities.  While the ability to establish a local alcohol licensing framework has been devolved to councils, it has not been accompanied by the required authority and resources.  As a result, the majority of LAPs so far developed have been appealed by alcohol industry groups and, in most cases, have resulted in adopted LAPs which closely align with national legislation.  The lack of provisions within many of the adopted LAPs creates a significant burden on communities to be involved in individual licensing decisions; and the current ability for appellants to endlessly challenge a community’s preferences regarding the sale of alcohol is untenable.

Supporting the use of biofuels as alternative low carbon fuels

This remit is proposed by Christchurch City Council and asks that LGNZ encourages the Government to investigate options to support the use of biodiesel, such as financial incentives; tax offsets; subsidies to bio-diesel manufacturers; and/or subsidies to renewable fuel manufacturers; and/or subsidies at the pump, in order to support the valuable New Zealand industries developing alternative and low carbon fuels.

With the decrease of global oil prices the price councils now pay for diesel is substantially lower than the price of alternative fuels, such as biodiesel.  While the lower cost of diesel is beneficial to councils and other consumers in the short- to medium-term, it is at the expense of the development of alternative fuels and associated technologies, and is acting against councils’ activities in other areas to reduce emissions.

Walking the talk – single use plastics

Proposed by Christchurch City Council this remit asks LGNZ to advocate to central government to urgently develop and implement a plan to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags and plastic straws and that LGNZ encourages its members to take steps to phase out the use of single-use plastic bags and straws at council facilities and events.

The extent of the issues posed by single-use plastic bags and plastic straws is such that a multi-pronged approach is required from central government, local councils, and citizens to limit the use of single-use plastics and promote responsible recycling.

Reducing the waste stream

This remit asks that LGNZ advocates to central government to implement the local government waste manifesto to reduce New Zealand’s waste.

Proposed by Wellington City Council and Christchurch City Council, this remit highlights the need for central government direction to develop a New Zealand-wide approach to recyclables processing and argues that, council-by-council approaches to solid waste collection, processing and disposal, are unlikely to achieve the necessary economies of scale needed to profit from recyclables processing in New Zealand.

Tyres stewardship

The establishment of a tyre stewardship fund is included in the Coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First.  In January 2018 the Government confirmed its intention to consider product stewardship schemes as part of a review of the implementation of the Waste Minimisation Act.  Palmerston North City Council asks that LGNZ requests that the Government urgently implements a comprehensive and mandatory product stewardship programme for tyres.

A mandatory register of cooling towers

Christchurch City Council asks LGNZ to advocate to central government to resume its work related to reducing the risks posed by legionella bacteria in industrial water cooling towers and acknowledge the potentially fatal risks posed by legionella bacteria in industrial water cooling towers used for air conditioning and manufacturing.

Every few years Legionnaires’ disease dominates headlines for a period as another "outbreak" occurs.  In order to reduce such outbreaks the Council proposes a mandatory nation-wide register of cooling towers to be updated annually, and overseen by the Ministry of Health via District Health Boards.

Copper in brake pads – impact on the environment

Proposed by Environment Canterbury, this remit asks that LGNZ calls for central government to introduce legislation to limit or eliminate the copper content of vehicle brake pads to reduce contaminants in urban waterways.

Many urban centres have some level of waterway degradation as a result of urbanisation, with stormwater runoff the major source of copper and other metals.  A necessary part of any water quality measurement strategy is to reduce or eliminate contaminates at the source.  Some sources can be managed at a regional or local level with bylaws and district plans, however, the control mechanisms available to a local authority are not sufficient to tackle copper.