What does Local Government mean by Localism?
"Public services should be provided by the sphere of government which is as close as possible to the people". In other words LOCAL councils should be able to better provide what their communities need and want.
Putting people at the centre of decision making on services that affect them is a key focus of the Local Government Position Statement on Localism launched at the LGNZ conference in Christchurch.
It is about de-centralisation, resourcing and allowing local councils, alongside their communities to decide what is good for them.
LGNZ simply believes that one size does not fit all. Our communities from the top of the north to the bottom of the south are very different. The issues we all face are complex and affect communities differently. Local people understand what they need and want for their communities.
This is about bringing power closer to the people and not seeing all the decisions evolve from Wellington.
Later this year LGNZ will launch as discussion paper in 2019 so this is a great time to think about what this means for us in Hamilton.
Bottom up/ top down? What is best?
There is no doubt that Central Government does, and should, control aspects of how Hamilton ( as part of NZ) functions and grows. they create law and policy over national interests and they collect tax to provide services such as national education, defense, health. They have amazing resources including expertise.
But local communities also have expertise whether it be in the community, business, education or local government sector. The ratepayers fund services. The ratepayers have the right to submit to Council what they wish to see for their communities. However Councils are bound also by Government directive.
Would it make it better for Hamilton if the directives of central government were less? If Hamilton could determine through local democracy how the city would grow and provide services? Would more local power increase public participation in democracy? Would more stakeholders be able to innovate and seek new solutions to local problems?
Would localism enable a more place-based approach? Enable communities to better shape the priorities for their communities? Invest more back into the people? How will people's democratic opportunities be provided for? Protected?
These are some questions I will be putting my mind to over the next year. How can we make a localism approach deliver better outcomes for Hamilton?
I want to see better public engagement and participation? Voting rates have been disappointing and submissions to propose plans/ ideas could certainly be better. I want to see more real connection with all community sectors ( business, not for profit, youth, disabled, aging and ethnic for example). I want us to be having connected conversations all of the time not just every 3 years. I want greater accountability and transparency of Council to the community.
Localism may offer us the opportunity to think harder about how this can be done?
I welcome your views.