The Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 3) was introduced to Parliament on 4th November, 2013 as the Governments second major round of changes to how Local Government operates and consults the public on issues affecting their local areas.
Between November 2013 and now, our team at PublicVoice including our very own Chief Local Government Reporter Joe Public have been keeping a very close eye on how this piece of legislation will impact on Local Government within New Zealand.
Late last year, our team published a blog post entitled Better Local Government with Better Consultation highlighting some of the purposed changes to how Local Government will have to engage the public in the decision making process. But since then, this bill has been changed to include even more exciting changes that will benefit the public overall.
Some of the latest round of changes to this second stage of the bill include;
- Allowing for the public to have access to important reports and documents prior to decisions being made on issues.
- Amending Section 82A so that information that is key to a decision be made public prior to consultation taking place.
- Creation of Section 82A(2A) to force Councils’ to inform the public if there are any major changes between whats in a proposed Annual Plan and the original Draft Long Term Plan.
- Allowing for the public to give their views to Councils’ either in person, orally to council or by use of New Zealand Sign Language.
- Amendments to Section 93C to give Councils’ more guidance over what to include and what not to include in consultation documents when going out to the public.
- Councils can in their consultation documents now refer people to their websites to find specialist documents.
- Documents must be simple to the average reader and be concise.
- People can now engage with Council over audio or visual link should that Council have rules allowing people to do so.
Our personal favourite change by far is that contained in Section 93C (3)(C) and was originally recommended by the Local Government and Environment Committee to let Councils’ put whatever title they wish on consultation documents and not produce them as polished or glossy documents. (That poor little printer doesn’t have to work as hard now)
We look forward to seeing more people take advantage of their new ability’s under this law to give there views to Councils’ and to see how Local Government will cope with this new challenge before them including the poor little Council’s printers who have been spared more pain under this important piece of legislation.