by NZ CATHOLIC staff
WELLINGTON — All levels of government must be good stewards of public funds, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has told a select committee considering changes to local government legislation. “However, stewardship includes responsibility for wellbeing,” the social justice agency said.
Removing responsibility for wellbeing from the purpose of local government will change the balance of responsibilities, Caritas research and advocacy coordinator Lisa Beech told the Local Government and Environment Select Committee on September 14.
“Social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing are the responsibility of all levels of government,” she said.
Removing responsibility for those things from local government level will either put too much emphasis on central government for matters that can and should be determined locally; or will put too much emphasis on civil society and the community sector, she said.
Ms Beech said Parliament seemed to assume that responsibility for the priorities specified in the new purpose statement for the Infrastructure, Local Public Services and Performance of Regulatory Functions Bill can be carried out without considering their impact on wellbeing.
“In fact, matters such as sewerage, water supply, public transport and roads are all intrinsically linked to wellbeing,” she said. For example, if a water supply or sewerage main was put through an urupa — such as at Korokoro cemetery — considerations of cultural and environmental wellbeing immediately arise.
“Wellbeing is not an added extra for consideration after fundamentals are taken care of,” she said.
Often there are frequently tensions between matters framed as “efficient” and those seen as “cultural, environmental and social”. If those are not all included in a decisionmaker’s brief, they are likely to be overlooked or overridden by other considerations in the name of “law” or “process”.

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