The government's spectacular U-turn in dropping Rodney Hide's crazy plans to gut local government services and starve community programmes of funding vindicates the strong stand taken by residents and community leaders up and down the North Shore, says North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams .
"People were horrified to find out about Rodney Hide's secret plan to cut local government back to minimal core services, introduce an unworkable fixed cap on rates, force referenda for every 'significant' decision, and repeal the focus on promoting the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of local communities," Mayor Williams said
"All of these crazy changes have been abandoned by the government, and it is down to the hard work and perseverance and determination of hundreds of local people and groups from the likes of the North Shore that has made the difference. They are the real heroes of this victory for common sense . "
Mayor Williams said that as with all announcements from Rodney Hide, the devil will be in the detail and he advised local communities to keep the champagne on ice until they take a close look at the empowering legislation to assure themselves that there are no hidden fishhooks.
"For example, Rodney Hide is running around today scaring people by saying that council operating costs will increase by 39 percent over the next decade, with debt forecast to rise to $10.8 billion. However, what he is not telling people is that the vast bulk of this expenditure - around 73 percent - is spending on roads and public transport and the 'three waters' - water supply, waste water and storm water. The other big ticket item - around 18 percent - is spending on community cultural and recreational assets - libraries, swimming polls, parks, stadiums, theatres and museums. That leaves around nine percent - harbours and economic development and suchlike - for Rodney to slash and burn."
" The Minister is also not telling the New Zealand public that local government in this country has $95 billion in assets with extremely healthy balance sheets. So of course such strong asset backing will underwrite and guarantee sound ongoing investment in New Zealand infrastructure within affordable levels. How else will New Zealand improve its performance within the OECD if we do not leverage off our sound local government financial position when improving our country's infrastructural requirements?"
"Prime Minister John Key, Finance and Infrastructure Minister Bill English and Associate Local Government Minister John Carter all seem to understand that local government investment in vital infrastructure is essential if we are to build the platform for future growth and prosperity of New Zealand . Unfortunately this seems to be beyond Local Government Minister Rodney Hide". "
"It is high time Rodney Hide stopped trying to spin-up the expenditure numbers to paint a picture of local government profligacy and come back down to earth. Maybe his major slap-down this week by cabinet over his latest raft of reforms will cause him to pause and start to work with local government rather than blame them for crimes that were never even committed," Mayor Williams said.
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