Submission to the Local Government Commission on Reorganisation of Wellington Local Government

You will be aware that there is a push for a Wellington supercity. Here is our submission to the Local Government Commission:

3796322_origSubmission to the Local Government Commission on Reorganisation of Local Government in New Zealand

1 March 2015

1. Who we are

We are a political party that was started in 2011. Our goal is to have a just and sustainable economy that mimics nature in its organisation. We want a tax system that taxes what you hold or take not what you do or make. We want a money system where money is created without interest by the people not by commercial banks. We want a welfare system that encourages sharing, honesty and intimacy. We want open government and participatory democracy, including participatory budgeting.

2. We do not favour the proposal in its current form but would recommend an entirely different form of cooperation and sharing. While we are in favour of the organisation of a larger unit, not all power and control should go to the central body. Your model does this. All revenue is collected centrally and it does not appear to be shared fairly. All major decisions appear to be made centrally or by unaccountable Council Controlled Organisations. This is not nature’s model. Although we understand that ‘finance
follows function’ it is the central organisation that does all the deciding in your model and this is unacceptable.

We like both big and small and so we commend working on the organisational model from scratch. We believe that each small community have its own unique nature and be in a state of constant negotiation with the nearest big centre and with the centre. As far as possible it should recycle within its own community. When there is a major financial decision to be made there should be participatory budgeting.

3. Organisation of government should resemble nature. Nature has complexity, continuous recycling of energy and matter. There are managed boundaries. In nature there are systems within systems and wholes within wholes. There are well designed feedback loops for constant readjusting towards equilibrium. There is continuous self-organisation and response to stress or change. In nature there is no conflict between the needs of the larger whole and the needs of individual cells or organs. n nature decision making is spread. Cooperation supplements competition. There is diversity and coordination of parts and an awareness of the whole. Since for any whole part the energy and resources in must equal the energy and resources out, it is critical not to deplete resources from the periphery or it withers and that is not good for the whole. CCO’s must be managed on this principle.

4. This requires the reinstatement of paid community boards and the right of local communities to elect their own community board. Democracy costs money and we should not sacrifice democracy to starve the periphery of representation. There needs to be a balance between efficiency and resilience. Nature manages quite a lot of replication. It saves energy and resources by its superb organisational principles. Although under this model Local Boards (formerly councils) have the choice to have local
committees (previously Community Boards), it must be remembered that Kapiti Coast District Council in 2008 was one vote away from disestablishing Community Boards.

5. As a second best alternative please at least recommend legislation to require local representatives to call public meetings to discuss major budget decisions at local level and give them the money to do this.

6. CCOs must be answerable to elected representatives and the LGC must make it clear how this is to happen. These have largely been responsible for the fact that both Rodney and Waiheke are now working to escape from the Auckland supercity. We need more information on CCOs and their powers.

7. We endorse the submission of the “Land” Rent for Revenue and Justice Association of New Zealand where it recommends that in Local Government reform a larger entity should reinstate a rating system based on land value alone rather than capital value.

We believe in the principle “location, location, location”. Where there is a location that gives access to more services like infrastructure, commerce or nature, it is the land that goes up in value. Because we should pay for what we hold, we should pay for our continuing use of the land.

a. It is a progressive tax. Rating on land value alone means rates are lower for more ratepayers. Hence where a poll has been taken –

a situation that existed for decades – the public has has always chosen land value rating.

b. It discourages sprawl and saves public money. Since sprawl leads to a demand for building infrastructure it is essential financially to have a rating system based on land values. When this happens, landowners will either sell underused sites or use them appropriately. Capital value rating results in cities with holes in as development often “leapfrogs” outwards in search of cheap land.
Wellington should remain compact and we should encourage compact development in each town within the region.

c. There should be public ownership of infrastructure. The larger council should own and coordinate the infrastructure – the natural monopolies of water, main roads, rails, pipes, wires, ports and airports. Where possible the operation should be leased to private operators at market rentals.

d. It discourages speculation because those who do not use valuable land properly are penalised.

e. Land value rating encourages building and improvement of properties, whereas capital value rating discourages it by penalising it.

This is good for business. It is no good arguing that Wellington economy is not flourishing and then putting in a rating system that discourages economic activity.

Why not create a national currency at local level?

upmapOver a period of two years or more we have proposed:

1. A second national currency. The currency to be issued by Treasury, spent into existence to buy land. The new currency will have no other taxes than land rents, natural resource rents and taxes on bads. We aim to move to a tax system that taxes the monopoly use of the commons rather than labour and sales. Some revenue will be distributed as a Citizens Dividend to all citizens who have lived there for a year or more, the rest will be shared by all levels of government. We advocate a Land Rental Index to be set up in each area, with land rents being adjusted annually according to the index. Land rentals are relatively very stable over time. It is only when there is a major event like and earthquake that they decline or when a railway is put in or a labour intensive business arrives that they rise more than just a tiny bit. The new money would be good for the payment of rates and taxes. No further rates would be payable.

2. We have occasionally advocated a Christchurch currency and an Auckland currency created by spending it into existence to buy land. This would require complete cooperation from the central government as legislation would be needed to make it free of income tax, GST and company tax as before. Rents would be shared as a small Citizens Dividend. The rest would be shared with central government. So a similar design but a city currency as well as a national one.

3. Then very recently we went a step further and suggested that Local Boards (the Auckland supercity calls them this and there are 21 Local Boards as shown on graphic) create the currency, spend it into existence to buy land. A monetary authority will have to be set up to ensure there is no inflation. Revenue from land rents and some natural resource rents can be gathered by Local Boards and first distributed to the local citizens then the rest used at local board level and then sent up the line to supercity and to central government. Supercities would have power to impose taxes on water pollution e.g. leaching of nitrates that uses the commons of the aquifers and rivers. (and to tax the use of water for commercial purposes.)

This option 3 would require several currencies to co-exist. The usual NZ dollar, the new NZ dollar, the supercity dollar and the Local Board dollar. We had considerable difficulties and confusion when discussing exchangeability of currencies.


4. Option 4 arrived a couple of days after I spoke to a meeting at a Motueka ecovillage in response to the questions and problems. This one is simpler and is like the formation of a river from the small streams to the river to the sea. Create the new national currency at Local Board level and pass it up the line. Local Boards would set up a Land Committee to decide which land should be bought first. Each local board might decide differently in consultation with its community. Every decision has the right to be vetoed by the local hapu or iwi and where applicable the Maori Land Court should be involved. You would also need a local committee (perhaps the same one) to administer a Land Rental Index or where appropriate because of different desirabilities of sites e.g. Wellington hill suburbs for sun. You would also need a local Monetary Authority to monitor inflation. It would work closely with the Supercity Monetary Authority and the Treasury Monetary Authority to ensure there is no inflation and that no local board would issue too much or too little new money. These are such important entities that they would have to be voted in.

There are so many issues to comment on here, it would be really good to have a general discussion. Then we can perhaps divide up the discussions. Option 4 finally gives real powers to the local economy, which is in line with our policy. The land board may, after consultation with the local community, choose a local business which needs capital, or choose undeveloped land owned by absentee speculators or the local iwi may have very strong preferences.

For instance, if the local committee chose five sections each valued at $200,000 it would create $1m of national currency. If the committee chose to purchase the land of a speculator, that speculator, seeing no future, might sell the lease and thus release the land for genuine use. Many with mortgages will want their mortgage reduced and, because the new currency is legal tender, the bank would have to accept it for paying off a mortgage. Or the committee may be persuaded that a local business needed capital to employ local labour and grow. A community land trust might ask for their land to be bought so they can take land out of the market. This would enable them to sell houses to younger people to join their village, as otherwise the cost would be unaffordable. They could then use the considerable injection of capital to develop their labour intensive businesses and the ones that use local materials.

Then the monetary authority, in conjunction with the monetary authorities of the supercities and the government would make sure the local board did not issue more money than it was allowed, as inflation must be kept strictly under control.images-1There could be problems with certain rogue local boards. Either they issued too much money and wouldn’t cooperate with the monetary authorities elsewhere, or their leadership was questionable. In that case there should be provision in law to instal a Commissioner until the Board's administration improved.

In models 1-3 we have designed in a circulation incentive in the form of a dated currency. However perhaps in model 4, since all money flows downstream from local to central, there may be no need of this.

My questions are (and you will raise plenty too):
  1. Exchangeability with the national currency NZ dollar? We had it as they are issued at par and redeemed at par and in between the value changes according to the market. Some have argued there should be no exchangeability with the old national currency.

  2. Will the creation of a second national currency at local board level stimulate the local economy?

  3. How does this all line up with the Maori Land Trust boards and Incorporations situation?

  4. How would the public be protected from local board that go rogue and how would the wider public ensure that local boards representatives can deal with this level of responsibility?

Now there is one more thing that comes before any of this. Councils and Government should never sell land. The idea of the government buying up the land in the Green Frame and then selling it off into private hands is unacceptable. They should keep it and auction the leases to the highest bidder, then share that revenue with the public (via a Citizens Dividend) and the central government. This should be entrenched in law somehow. Meanwhile a private bidder Auckland City Council has been offered $75,000,000 for a council car park. What a dreadful thing that would be if the council sold off this prime city land for cars to park and for a private enterprise to gain, both in car parking, and in capital gain. As they said in a The Nation programme on TV3, they are developing around traffic hubs. Of course. That means the public pays for the transport infrastructure and private land "owners" benefit from rising land values. Not fair, all wrong. Let logic prevail!

Reservations about Crown Leasehold Land. There are many who will have reservations about the government or the local board buying up their land. The alternative we used to have was that the Government pays you for your land, and the title of your property then bears a covenant, an obligation to pay a ground rent from then on, whoever owns the land. While it is more difficult to explain to the public, a covenant of this nature would give much more peace of mind when it comes to secure tenure of the land. "Leasehold title" has such a bad reputation that it is difficult to explain there are no sudden rent rises if the rent is linked to an index and that the tenure is for a lifetime, with rights that your descendants can get the next lease. No matter how much this is explained it may be better to have a covenant.