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The importance of councils has been "shortchanged'' by the National Government for too long, Labour leader Andrew Little says.
Speaking at the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) conference in Dunedin yesterday, Mr Little said the partnership between central and local government was "one of the most important, and most undervalued'' in New Zealand and Labour's policies would reflect this should it be elected next year.
It would recognise the importance of local government by shifting it from the Department of Internal Affairs :backwater'' to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
"And one of the first things I'd do for local government is to make sure every local mayor in New Zealand has the same powers as the mayor of Auckland.''
Auckland's mayor has a special role, written for them in statute, to:
Articulate and promote a vision for Auckland.
Provide leadership towards that vision, including by leading the development of the council's plans, policies and budget.
Labour would reverse recent reforms to the Local Government Act that "perversely'' removed from the council's purpose a responsibility to look after the economic, environmental, cultural and social wellbeing of people in its community.
"When a mayor champions her city around the country and overseas, that doesn't have much to do with infrastructure, public services or regulatory functions.
"I see no need to continue with this narrow-minded legislative fiction about councils.''