Mayors at odds with central Govt

Mayors at odds with central Govt

The great divide between local and central government took centre stage this morning when mayors from across the country took part in a panel disussion on The Nation.

There were mixed messages on major issues such housing and New Zealand's clean, green image.

Hastings, our largest apple-growing region and second largest producer of wine, is now the first council in the country to ban genetically modified crops and animals.

"We've got some of most fertile soils in world," says Hastings District Mayor Lawrence Yule. "We grow some of the highest quality products you'll ever find, and we've been convinced that there's actually value in that premium, and we need to look after it."

Environment Minister Nick Smith supports the approval this week of a genetically modified organism to be used in a clinical trial in New Zealand for cancer treatment. But he doesn't support Hastings going GM-free.

"It is impractical to have 86 councils with different rules on GM," says Dr Smith. "We have no biosecurity limits. It is wrong for councils to try and regulate this separately."

The growing gaps between local and central government were revealed on The Nation this morning. On the subject of city planning and the Government being able to force councils to release more land, all the mayors were clear – no, no, no.

Christchurch Mayor Leanne Dalzell was a Labour MP before she became Christchurch mayor.

"I almost wish I knew back then what I know now," she says. "Central government makes obligations on local government and they don't consider how that is paid for."

When it comes to Auckland house prices, the mayor and the minister are like chalk and cheese. There was even a debate as to Wellington City Council's role when it comes to the subject of pandas in their zoo.

Meanwhile, Auckland Mayor Len Brown seemed to drop a hint he won't be standing in the Auckland mayoral election next year.

But it looks like no matter who ends up in charge of Auckland next year, he or she will still face tough challenges finding common ground with the Government on some of the major issues.

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