2 October 2012
All levels of government must be good stewards of public funds, Caritas has told a select committee considering changes to local government legislation. ‘However, stewardship includes responsibility for wellbeing.’
Removing responsibility for wellbeing from the purpose of local government will change the balance of responsibilities, Caritas research and advocacy coordinator Lisa Beech told the Local Government and Environment Select Committee on September 14.
‘Social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing is the responsibility of all levels of government,’ she said. ‘Explicitly removing responsibility for these aspects of wellbeing from the local government level will either put too much emphasis on central government for matters which can and should be determined locally, or on civil society and the community sector.’
Lisa Beech said there appeared to be an assumption that responsibility for the priorities specified in the new purpose statement for the Bill – infrastructure, local public services and performance of regulatory functions – can be carried out without considering their impact on wellbeing.
‘In fact, matters such as sewerage, water supply, public transport and roads are intrinsically linked to wellbeing. For example, a decision to extend water supply or sewerage through an urupa – such as at Korokoro cemetery at Petone – immediately brings a local authority into considerations of cultural and environmental wellbeing.
‘Wellbeing is not an added extra for consideration after fundamentals are taken care of,’ said Lisa Beech. ‘There are frequently tensions between matters framed as “efficient” and those seen as “cultural, environmental and social”.
If these are not all included in a decision maker’s brief, we can expect to see them overlooked or overridden by other considerations in the name of “law” or “process”.’