University of Waikato demographer, Professor Natalie Jackson, presented the inconvenient truth on demographics to Local Government New Zealand’s annual conference.
Professor Jackson said over the next two decades, all growth in 56 of New Zealand’s territorial authorities (84 per cent of the total 78) will be in the 65 years-plus age bracket.
By 2031, an estimated 91 per cent of territorial authorities (TA) will have more elderly than children. This figure currently stands at just 15 per cent. This will have a major impact on employment, housing and infrastructure in much of New Zealand.
This, Prof Jackson says, is the inconvenient truth of population ageing, already well advanced across the developed world. . .
The government is not going to force amalgamations on councils but reorganisation was discussed.
. . . Ganesh Nana, Chief Economist at BERL said “Economies of scale make sense, where there is synergy and, importantly, where communities are comfortable with the change being proposed.”
The panel also recognised issues caused by changing demographics where some areas will have declining populations, whilst other grow.
LGNZ President, Lawrence Yule, said “This makes it more of a challenge for smaller councils. The inevitability of change means that councils will be finding innovative approaches to deliver their services.”
“The answer to “is Bigger Better?” will be very different depending on where you are and what challenges you are facing as a council – but one thing is certain – there will be changes ahead for local government in New Zealand.”
Some amalgamations are inevitable to get economies of scale but could a different approach to doing what they have to do also work?
For example, do councils in close proximity have to duplicate everything they do, or could one specialise in certain areas and its neighbour or neighbours tackle others?
This wouldn’t work where each council had different policies but could it where policies are set by central government rather than councils or would distancing staff from elected representatives cause more problems than it solved?