Government and councils at odds again

The Government’s bullying tactics with councils are threatening to derail its flagship housing accords, says Labour.

“The Government's Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill is already in trouble. Housing Minister Nick Smith is at loggerheads with local councils over clauses which give him the power to override them if government doesn’t get its way,” Labour’s Local Government spokesperson Su’a William Sio says.

“President of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), Lawrence Yule, told the select committee considering the Bill today that councils were totally opposed to the override clause and Auckland Council would refuse to sign the Housing Accord with the Government unless the clause was removed,” said Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.

“Nick Smith said on radio this morning the override clause would not be removed. There is clearly another miscommunication between central and local government.

"It is bizarre that after spending six weeks hammering out an accord with Auckland Council that explicitly rules out the idea of the Government overriding the Council, the Government then inserts clauses in the Bill that would allow it to go over the top of that council  – and others – if it can’t get its own way.

"How can a council negotiate in good faith when the Government is holding a gun to its head?” Phil Twyford said.

Su’a William Sio said Mr Smith was determined to strip local communities of their powers: “We have seen it in the Land Transport Management Amendment Bill which transfers the power to set local transport priorities from Councils to Cabinet and in the RMA which tilts the balance of power away from local communities.

"While local councils by and large accept the need for special measures to deal with affordable housing, they aren’t ‘spare parts’ in the decision making process.

“Bullying is not the go-to tactic of a responsible and reasonable government.”

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