Environmental / Resource Management

Welcoming Back the Well-Beings

As promised by Hon Nanaia Mahuta at the beginning of her term as Minister for Local Government,  the four well-beings have been restored to the heart of the Local Government Act 2002 (the Act).

The Local Government (Community Well-being) Amendment Bill has now been passed reinstating the four aspects of community well-being – social, economic, environmental and cultural into the Act.  This short Bill, whilst harking back to the inception of the  Act, should not be interpreted as restoring the governance of local authorities to 2002 terms.  Much has changed in the interim, and the waves of ‘reform’ applied to the Act by successive Ministers have changed the manner of governance imposed in countless ways. 

Governance

The degree of accountability and oversight now contained in the Act is a far cry from the heady (albeit overly optimistic) scenario anticipated when the power of general competence was originally unleashed.  But the big blow to the conceptual underpinning of the Act came when the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Act 2012 eliminated reference to the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities.  This has now been reversed.  The promotion of the four well-beings is once again a purpose of the Act and of  local government,  with significant amendments to sections 3 and 10.  Consistent amendments have  also been made to the principles relating to local authorities in section 14 and the funding criteria in section 101(3) of the Act.

Development contribution restrictions relaxed

The reversal of the fortunes of ‘community’, as opposed to core services and infrastructure, is further reinforced by the reinstatement of a broad definition of “community infrastructure” for which development contributions can be required in section 197.  In addition, the restrictions limiting the power to require development contributions for reserves to residential development only, have been removed.

Finally, in a new initiative, changes have been made to the development contributions regime that will allow more flexibility around the use of capital funding from NZTA. Such funding will not be treated as third-party funding in relation to particular infrastructure where it is offset by reduced funding for other projects or programmes.  This would seem to be a direct response to difficulties encountered by local authorities in high growth urban areas like Tauranga and Hamilton, where efforts by NZTA to assist with the provision of transport and roading infrastructure needed to facilitate new growth have been hampered  by the effect such funding would  have had on the ability to require future development contributions.

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