Tuesday 4 May 2021

Special Purpose Authorities

This week's column with the Dom Post takes a look back to prior local government reform, given that the government's launched a new local government inquiry. 

In 1988, the Committee on Local Government released a discussion document, Reform of Local and Regional Government. It paved the way toward council amalgamations and disestablishing the special purpose authorities that once enabled infrastructure delivery.

A snippet:

The list of authorities to be reviewed was not small. At the time, New Zealand had 27 city councils, 89 borough councils, 80 county councils, a town council and 20 district councils. It also had 121 community councils, 15 district community councils, an Auckland regional authority, two regional councils and 20 united councils.

It was a lot of local councils for what was then a much smaller country.

But the review also encompassed some 453 Special Purpose Authorities. Things that now fall under general council remit were then carved out into special purpose vehicles.

Perhaps the most notable of the older Special Purpose Authorities is the one that built the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

If you today proposed "Let's set a special purpose body that can take its own debt to market and pay it off via user-fees over a long time horizon", some folks would think you were proposing some kind of 1980s neoliberalism. But it was the reforms of the 1980s that got rid of these. The Auckland Harbour Bridge was constructed under one of these setups in the 1950s. 

I love this picture of one of the bond ads from the 50s. Forty year bonds. 

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