There has been a relatively large amount of legislation before the House affecting local government decisionmakers. The current government has made wellbeing the principal focus of public policy and has recently delivered its 2019 Wellbeing Budget, embedding a wellbeing focus in the budget to inform investment priorities and funding decisions. The Budget provides $10 million to enhance relationships between local government and Iwi/Māori; and $10 million to an initiative to help to enhance community wellbeing and strengthen local governance by funding additional staff to work with local government to make improvements to water services, develop strategies to manage natural hazards and climate change, and improve local government financial sustainability. The Government is also proposing to make changes to the Public Finance Act, focussing on wellbeing.
The Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga, set up with funding from the 2019 Budget, is aimed at working with central and local government, industry, and other stakeholders to develop a 30-year strategy for the long-term infrastructure requirements of New Zealand. The New Zealand Infrastructure Commission/Te Waihanga Bill establishes the Commission as an autonomous Crown entity, with the purpose of coordinating, developing, and promoting an approach to infrastructure that encourages infrastructure, and services that result from the infrastructure, that improve the well-being of New Zealanders. The Bill is currently before the Finance and Expenditure Committee and is to be reported to the House by 26 August 2019.
The four well-beings, the promotion of social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities, has been reinstated into the statutory purpose of local government in the Local Government Act 2002. The purpose of the Local Government Act 2002 is now the same as it was prior to 3 December 2012. The Local Government (Community Well-being) Amendment Act 2019 also gave councils back the ability to collect development contributions to fund increased demand for community facilities, such as libraries, sports grounds and swimming pools resulting from developments.
The Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2) proposes changes to the Local Government Act 2002 and the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009. The Bill seeks to give local authorities more flexibility to co-ordinate and combine resources and infrastructure networks across regions, by allowing more functions to be transferred between local authorities, joint governance arrangements for areas of common or shared interest, greater use of joint councilcontrolled organisations for providing core services such as water and transport, and by making changes to local government reorganisation processes.
An infringements regime has been inserted into the Reserves Act 1977, and into other conservation-related legislation, to address less serious offending. The new system allows a warning to be given, an infringement notice to be issued, or a prosecution to be taken, depending on the seriousness of the offending. The recipient of an infringement notice will be liable to an infringement fee rather than a court summons and a potential conviction. Alleged offenders will be required to provide evidence of their identity to a warranted officer. Rangers will be able to issue infringement notices for less serious breaches of the offence provisions. The Reserves Act now sets out infringement offences for unauthorised actions in reserves, littering, using or receiving items removed unlawfully from reserve, altering boundary markings, failing to remove an animal, vehicle, aircraft, or boat from a reserve, entering reserves without authority, anchoring or mooring without a permit, and lighting fires. A person who commits an infringement offence will be liable on conviction to the infringement fee prescribed in regulations, or a fine imposed by a court not exceeding the maximum fine prescribed in regulations for that offence. Regulations have not yet been made.
Changes are to be made to the Dog Control Act 1996. The Dog Control (Category 1 Offences) Amendment Bill, a Members Bill, aims to reduce the time it takes for certain charges to be heard under the Dog Control Act. The Bill would amend the Dog Control Act to allow Justices of the
Peace and Community Magistrates to hear category 1 offences (those with a maximum penalty of a fine or a community-based sentence). The Local Government Regulatory Systems Amendment Act 2019 also makes changes to the Dog Control Act. Local authorities are required to make reports about various dog control matters (including the number of registered dogs, and the number of dog-related complaints received, and prosecutions taken) publicly available. The amendment Act also makes various changes to other Acts including the Local Electoral Act 2001; the Local Government Act 2002 (to change the definition of ‘working day’ so that it is consistent with the Building Act 2004; the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (to include the same definition of ‘working day’); and the Rates Rebate Act 1973.
The government is proposing significant changes to the Building Act. Submissions on the discussion paper ‘Building system legislative reform’ have recently closed. The proposed changes are in five key areas: building products and methods, risk and liability, occupational regulation, the building levy, and offences, penalties and public notification. The proposed changes follow the existing set of amendments to the Building Act, soon to be enacted, which will provide two new sets of powers to improve the system for managing buildings after an emergency and to provide a clear set of legislative powers to enable investigation of building failures. The Building Amendment Act 2019 (not yet in force) provides new powers to responsible persons, which can include territorial authorities, relating to the entering of buildings for specified purposes including post-event assessments, directing evacuations, measures to keep people at a safe distance and to protect a building in a designated area from being damaged, the placement of notices and signs, directions to owners to give information, the carrying out of urgent works or remove or reduce risks, and directing owners to carry out works.
The Privacy Bill seeks to repeal and replace the Privacy Act 1993. The Bill proposes to keep the principlesbased framework of the Privacy Act, while updating the law to reflect the needs of the digital age. A key change includes a requirement that agencies (broadly defined to include both public and private organisations) inform the Privacy Commissioner and affected individuals when a privacy breach causes harm or poses a risk of harm to people. Not notifying the Commissioner would be an offence. It may be difficult in some situations for Councils to assess when this might occur. The Bill also proposes an ability for the Commissioner to issue a compliance notice to make an agency do something or stop doing something, to comply with privacy law; restrictions on the disclosure of personal information by agencies to an overseas person; and an ability for the Commissioner to make directions on complaints about access to information (rather than the Human Rights Review Tribunal). New offences are proposed, including destroying a document containing personal information, knowing that a request has been made for it.
A number of Treaty claims settlement Bills are currently before the House, which provide opportunities and mechanisms for Councils to develop relationships with iwi and hapū, and well as providing further obligations on councils. The Ngāti Rangi settlement establishes a joint river entity with members appointed by Ngāti Rangi, other iwi with interests in the Whangaehu River catchment, and local authorities.
The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, introduced on 8 May 2019, has had its first reading and public submissions are now being called. The Bill is to be reported back to the House by 21 October 2019. The Bill sets a new greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to reduce all greenhouse gases (except biogenic methane) to net zero by 2050; and reduce emissions of biogenic methane within the range of 24–47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050 including to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030. It will set a series of emissions budgets and establish an independent Climate Change Commission to help successive governments meet long-term goals. The Bill also proposes to require the Government to develop and implement policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation. As part of this, an adaptation informationgathering power will enable the Minister to require reporting organisations, which includes local authorities, to provide climate change adaptation information.
The Kāinga Ora–Homes and Communities Bill establishes Kāinga Ora—Homes and Communities as a new Crown entity (previously known as the Housing and Urban Development Authority), which will have two main roles: public housing landlord, and leading and co-ordinating urban development projects. It is intended that Kāinga Ora―Homes and Communities will work with local authorities and others to identify and deliver housing and urban projects. The Bill consolidates central government housing by disestablishing Housing New Zealand and its development subsidiary, HLC (2017) Limited, putting Housing New Zealand and HLC’s functions and assets into Kāinga Ora–Homes and Communities, repealing the Housing Corporation Act 1974 and putting some of the functions and assets relating to KiwiBuild that currently sit in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development into Kāinga Ora–Homes and Communities.
The Bill requires Ministers to issue a Government Policy Statement (GPS), by 1 October 2020, to promote a housing and urban development system. The GPS is to set out the Government’s directions and priorities for housing and urban development, how the Government expects Kāinga Ora to manage its functions and operations in relation to those directions and priorities, how the Government expects other agencies to support that direction and those priorities, and Government expectations relating to Māori interests. A second Kāinga Ora Bill is to be introduced later this year which will give Kāinga Ora―Homes and Communities significant statutory powers to fast-track largescale urban development. The second bill will provide for a range of statutory powers that will better enable development. The authority will have a streamlined resource management planning and consent process. It will develop project master plans that will replace local plans and will be able to build and change infrastructure. It will also be able to bring together parcels of land; and reconfigure reserves.
Comprehensive changes to the Resource Management Act are also part of the Government’s legislative reform programme, which are to build on other work across urban development, as well as climate change, and freshwater, and work undertaken by external groups including the Productivity Commission (Commission). The Commission is currently undertaking an inquiry into local government funding and financing and examining options and approaches for improving the system. It has recognised the expanding scope of regulations and processes and the shifting of responsibilities from central government, as illustrated above, as factors which can increase councils’ administrative costs. The Commission has released a draft report on local government funding and financing on 4 July 2019, recommending, amongst other things, further legislative changes to make the current funding system more equitable, including changing rating powers.