Councils weigh up benefits of ‘regional deals’

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporting

North Canterbury’s council leaders are keen to hear more about proposed city and regional deals and how it could benefit their regions.

The leaders say they are keen to explore options which could see councils working together in partnerships with central government.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is pushing for new arrangements which would take decision-making away from Wellington and back into local communities.

City and regional deals are where central and local government partner to achieve outcomes which produce a wide benefit such as infrastructure projects.

It is based on models used in the United Kingdom and Australia.

“Local government is facing some tough decisions and we need the government to play its part in a long-term solution for our cities and regions,” LGNZ president Sam Broughton said.

“While there has been some success overseas using a city deals model, New Zealand needs a framework to reflect our communities’ specific needs.”

A regional deal would be based on collaboration between councils, such as Greater Christchurch, the North Canterbury councils or a Canterbury-wide arrangement.

Waimakariri mayor Dan Gordon said the biggest issue facing local government is addressing the funding model to ensure it is sustainable.

“One simple way of achieving this is through GST on rates being returned to councils. Another would be through the establishment of city or regional deals, or through the new Regional Infrastructure Fund.

“But there needs to be a variety of tools available that enable local decision making.”

Gordon said central and local government could address infrastructure and wellbeing “deficiencies” by working together in partnership.

“But to get there, councils need more funding and more funding levers, and soon, because rate-funding alone isn’t sustainable.”

Hurunui mayor Marie Black said she was open to the idea of a regional deal.

“We haven’t had a chance to consider the benefits or otherwise. It is a new way of thinking and when there is more information on the benefits we will look at it.”

She said the region’s mayors worked well together through the Canterbury Mayoral Forum so there may be opportunities for more collaboration.

Kaikōura District Council chief executive Will Doughty said his council enjoyed a good relationship with other Canterbury councils and with its northern neighbours, Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman councils.

“I would certainly be interested in looking a wider regional deal.”

LGNZ is proposing five key elements for city and regional deals – aligning outcomes which local communities want, new funding tools, long-term commitment beyond election cycles, authentic partnerships, and efficiencies.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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