Local regulation improvements needed

A report into local government by the New Zealand Productivity Commission says regulations need improvements.

In releasing the inquiry report, Commission Chair Murray Sherwin said, “Local councils have a big influence on the success of communities and local economies. A large and diverse set of regulations is managed by councils. They cover things like urban development, building safety and standards for air quality, right through to dog control and food safety. It is critical to community wellbeing, and New Zealand’s overall performance, that these local regulatory systems perform well.

“Most of the regulation undertaken by councils has its origins in legislation passed by Government. Having central and local government jointly thinking about what regulation is necessary, to what purpose and how best it can be implemented, enforced and monitored is critical for getting good results. This inquiry shows that we are well short of that ideal.

“At the council level, there is a need for greater attention to quality management processes to lessen the inconsistency in regulatory decisions that we see between different councils and even within individual councils. That would reduce much of the frustration reported by businesses in their interaction with councils.

“Our work has resulted in 29 recommendations for improvements in how regulation is designed, implemented, evaluated and governed. Both councils and Government need to lift their game on regulation, and work together more effectively to produce better outcomes for the community.

“Amongst the Commission’s recommendations for improving regulation are:
•                    a tool for helping to decide what regulations, and which parts of implementing regulation, are best performed by Government or councils;
•                    use of standardised formats and increased transparency to better demonstrate how key council regulatory decisions have been made;
•                    more focus by government departments, when preparing new regulation intended to be implemented by councils, on the costs and benefits of the proposed regulation, where those costs and benefits will fall, whether or not councils have the capability and capacity required to effectively implement the new regulation, and the likely costs of building that capability and capacity where it does not exist;
•                    the development of a ‘Partners in Regulation’ protocol to better guide Government/council engagement;
•                    the development of new or enhanced joint Government/council forums for overseeing improvements; and
•                    greater use of risk-based approaches to monitoring and enforcement of regulation by councils, together with enabling greater use of infringement notices to support regulations in place of more costly formal prosecutions.

“The Productivity Commission has taken a ‘whole of system’ approach to its review of council regulation. What is clear is that improvements will require both central and local government to be well connected to achieve improvements.”

The public service is more efficient and productive than it was before National came to power.

Local government has in general done little to improve its efficiency and productivity.

A review of regulations and how they are managed is a good place to start.


2 Responses to Local regulation improvements needed

  1. Ross says:

    Ele, I know it seems to be the season of knocking local government, especially in some circles.

    It is also very easy to make sweeping generalised statements that local government has done little to improve its efficiency and productivity.

    What would be far more useful would be those jumping up and down calling for the beating of local government to reflect what gets lost or broken in this quest for efficiency and supposed productivity?

    Local government is governed by extensive and often conflicting statute passed by Central Government.

    For the past 3 decades central government has consistently passed (by statute) extensive additional requirements and functions to local government, more often than not without compensation.

    Local government has extensive statutory requirements to consult and consider with communities.

    These requirements are all in tension with the requirement to be efficient and productive – especially when measured with traditional and limited fiscal or benchmarking measures.

    What is lost in this discussion is – what value is placed on civil society, of which local government makes valued (but hard to measure) contributions.

    It seems that the current National lead administration wants to undertake a major shake up of local government. This is of course their right as the government to manage the functions of government as they so wish.

    My concern is that there is a high risk of much of what is good and works well in local government will be lost in the what is planned.

    Time will tell….

  2. homepaddock says:

    I agree that local bodies have been burdened by policies imposed on them by successive governments. A review of regulations could help that.

    But every organisation can benefit from taking a close look at what it does, how it does it and improve it’s efficiency, without reducing its effectiveness, as a result.

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