Last week I attended my first Ministerial Council meeting as President of ALGA, taking part in the Australia And New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in Auckland. The meeting was also an opportunity to schedule a round of meetings with key ministers, government agencies and Local Government New Zealand.
It was a productive and busy couple of days, with the Ministerial Council meeting focussing on issues such as the roll out of the health star rating system, the sale of unpasteurised (raw) milk, and the review of Low THC Hemp as a food. From a local council point of view each of these issues raises questions around implementation and compliance.
In other meetings, I meet with New Zealand's Transport Minister Simon Bridges, the Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government Jackie Dean, the Secretary of Transport, the Local Government Commission, Wellington Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency.
The meetings provided valuable insight into how the local road network in New Zealand is managed and funded and what structural reform is currently underway in local government in New Zealand.
Discussions with LG NZ's President Lawrence Yule focused on the relationship and interaction the organisation has with the national government and the funding challenges faced by councils. These are useful discussions with parallels in Australia at a time when the Reform of Federation and Taxation White Papers are being developed.
LGNZ has since released a discussion paper reviewing local government funding. The paper aims to stimulate discussion about various funding opportunities and constraints in New Zealand, and acknowledges that local government is facing challenges with both operational expenditure and long term capital expenditure.
LGNZ has called for comment on the discussion paper with a view to releasing a final paper that proposes a long-term funding model for local government.
I will watch this process with interest to see what outcomes and solutions are proposed in the final report, particularly with regard to local government access to revenue through local income tax and sales tax options, as well as tax sharing arrangements through a model not dissimilar to our FAGs.
Mayor Troy Pickard