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Len Brown challenges local govt changes

Tuesday 20 Mar 2012 9:29 a.m.

A shake-up of local councils has been criticised by Auckland Mayor Len Brown, who says the proposal is at odds with his council's legislation.

Local Government Minister Nick Smith announced on Monday the plans to make local government finances more transparent, rein in debt and rates rises, and pare back councils' functions to focus on public services and infrastructure.

The changes will reform the role of local government away from promoting social, cultural and environmental well-being.

However, Mr Brown told Radio New Zealand that the proposals appear to clash with the requirement that Auckland Council establish a spatial plan encompassing those issues.

"Local government has always been concerned that central government legislates and local government picks up the tab," he said.

Auckland Council would appreciate a chance to settle into the reforms that took place less than two years ago when the super city was established, without further changes, Mr Brown says.

Dr Smith told Radio New Zealand councils' roles had become too broad since law changes in 2002 enabled them to take on new functions.

Auckland Council is now setting NCEA pass rates and greenhouse gas targets, which are not its role, he says.

The new legislation will also rein in councils' staff costs, which have risen by $850 million, or 85 per cent, over eight years.

Labour and the Greens have criticised the changes as being "nanny state", saying they will stop communities deciding what services they want and strip councils of vital roles like environmental protection.

Dr Smith will begin meeting with mayors and council chief executives over the proposals on Tuesday.


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