Local Government New Zealand is defending itself after Auckland’s Mayor said the membership was a “waste of money”.
Auckland Council voted to leave Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) on Thursday. The votes were tied at 10-all but Mayor Wayne Brown cast the key vote in favour of leaving. He cited a culture of heavy drinking at a recent LGNZ conference as a reason for leaving.
“My band regularly plays at conferences when they’re held at the Bay of Islands and watching 800 members of local boards completely and utterly pissed and dancing all night long for no benefit whatsoever to the ratepayers has made me question the value of it,” Brown said.
But LGNZ chair Stuart Crosby told AM they have never held a conference in the Bay of Islands and Brown’s comments are “grossly unfair”. Crosby added the Mayor’s claims are “absolutely” wrong.
“We have never had an event in the Bay of Islands since last century. It’s quite a derogatory remark and grossly unfair on the whole membership of LGNZ,” he told AM.
Crosby said while there is alcohol at the conferences, he’s never seen anyone behaving inappropriately.
“I’ve been to numerous conferences. We only have one a year and they are in the major centres, not the Bay of Islands.
“They are an awards evening, yes there is hospitality there but I have never seen any inappropriate behaviour at all. So I am not really sure where that remark is coming from and it didn’t actually add value to the conversation.”
He said the Mayor’s decision to leave was based on misinformation about the value the organisation provides.
“Unfortunately yesterday at that meeting the value proposition was distorted by a lot of misinformation, some coming from the Mayor and some coming from other elected members. “The reality is withdrawing from LGNZ will cost the ratepayers more money because they will lose membership benefits of over $1.5 million.”
Crosby said LGNZ has several roles including advocating policies that will have positive impacts on communities and councils to the government. They also run a “robust, professional development programme” aimed at raising “the standards of governance in New Zealand in the local authority area”, he said.
Another benefit is providing programmes that help councils save money. One of which involved dimming street lights which would have saved Auckland $1.1 million if the city was a member, Crosby said.
LGNZ was also instrumental in setting up the local government funding agencies which is an internal banking system that saves councils huge amounts of money, he added.
LGNZ is also being supported by former Waitākere Mayor Sir Bob Harvey who told AM local government is vital for the entire country.
“It is the kind of glue that glues councils together. It’s like the intelligence network. It’s an underground movement of how local government can be when it’s good and not good.”
Sir Bob said it’s absolutely worth the money because the network between councils is an integral part of how the country runs.
He urged Brown to rethink his decision to leave.