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.

Local authority functions and finances and incentives for intimacy

Over the last couple of days we have had the announcement of impending legislation requiring local authorities to “stick to their knitting of supplying infrastructure, libraries and museums”.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Local Government both imply that the activities of councils in looking after the social, environmental, economic and cultural wellbeing of the citizens are responsible for the extra cost burden and rising rates.

Not so. Last time I looked at the financial statements of our council I found that it is the infrastructure of sewerage, stormwater, water and roads which is taking up the bulk of the expenditure. Our own council plans to spend $100 million in stormwater infrastructure over the next 20 years for our town of 5000 inhabitants. They cite climate change as being one of the factors, together with a growing population and an ageing infrastructure. Our town is built over a swamp.

I don’t think the Prime Minister or the Minister of Local Government mentioned the extra expense in dealing with climate change. Nor did they mention the continuing growth of population in this country or the GST that ratepayers have to pay. And 12% of council’s expenditure is for servicing loans to private banks issuing them with money. Unnecessary when they could create their own Rates Vouchers (but that is another topic). But what strikes me most is when I think of this in association with today’s Listener article on the growing social trend of single person households. New Zealand it says now has 23 percent of households as single person households, this percentage is growing and it is a global trend.

OK so for every house we have water reticulation, sewerage reticulation, and stormwater management. Basic infrastructure, the council’s main expenditure. If the number of single person households is increasing and the population is increasing and the standards for sewage treatment and water quality keep rising, then it stands to reason the costs will keep rising.

For every extra dwelling that is occupied, there is a house, its furnishings, a fridge, a washing machine, a motor mower and probably a car. More purchases, more expense. Not the Council’s expense but it does add to per household expenditure if the trend is to single person households. But the council has to pave more roads. This means buying more bitumen, which being an oil based product, has already risen in price by 95% in the last decade. And the cost of pipes has risen fast.

I have yet to hear of a politician at local authority level who addresses the issue of how to economise on infrastructure investment through giving incentives for households to have more than one person occupying them. Already we have a welfare system which penalises intimacy. You get more income from WINZ if you separate. We all know why. A stupid welfare mess is part of the problem which can only be solved with a citizens income.

Given the realities of local authority finances, it stands to reason that political parties must build in incentives for efficiency in housing. Efficiency is what Nature does best. Nothing is wasted.