The Four Well-beings – change to the Local Government Act 2002
The Government has just passed an Act to reinstate the four well-beings into the Local Government Act 1Local Government (Community Well-being) Amendment Act 2019. This reintroduces what the previous National led Government changed in 2012.
The purpose of the Local Government Act 2Section 3is changed back to its 2002 version to provide for : Local Authorities to play a broad role in promoting the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of their communities, taking a sustainable development approach.
This compares with the 2012 version which provided for “local authorities to play a broad role in meeting the current and future needs of their communities for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions”.
Likewise section 10, which provides the purpose for local government, is changed back to refer to the four well-beings rather than “good quality local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions in a way that is most cost-effective for households and business”.
In addition “community outcomes” are back to well-being, and “consequences” on the well-beings are included in the definition of “significance”. The reinstatement of well-beings is also found in sections 14, 101 and schedule 10.
These consequential changes implement the four well-beings and ensure that principles relating to decisions take into account the aspect of well-being. The financial management obligations are also amended to require the overall impact of any funding demands on the community to take into account the future social, economic, environmental and culture well-being of the community.
In 2010 the Act was amended to focus on “core services” at section 11A. This is repealed and some restrictions on development contributions are also eased.
The consequence of this reversion to 2002 wording is that it provides elected members with a much broader mandate to determine in each community whether an activity fits within this purpose. The purpose is broadly stated, and as was previously debated when this purpose used to be in the Act, almost anything could fit within one of these purposes.
The counter to the well-beings enabling a wide range of activities is that all the usual financial planning requirements such as long term and annual plans, decision making steps, and the requirement for external audit will continue to apply to ensure that Local Authorities spending is well signaled and consulted on where significant. The reinstatement of these well-beings will remove some uncertainty for Local Authorities about whether certain activities are or are not within their purpose. These changes have parallels with the Central Government approach of now focusing on a well-being budget.
Councils will once again need to amend decision making templates to include the well-beings and other amendments.
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 Local Government (Community Well-being) Amendment Act 2019
 Section 3
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