Local Focus - July 2016

Welcome to Local Focus, the newsletter for PSA members working in local government.

Local Gov Web Pic 2017In this Local Focus

Changes to your sector committee

The Local Government Sector Committee is a group of delegates from across the country who meet regularly to set our union's strategy for local government, to build links between PSA members in different regions and to oversee our recruitment and organizing in the sector.

The Committee has recently elected Benedict Ferguson from Auckland Council as their new convenor. The convenor chairs the sector committee meetings, and represents the committee on the PSA Executive Board. Eleanor Haggerty-Drummond, from Wellington City Council, was elected as deputy convenor.

There is also a new member of the committee. Noel Hodson from Horowhenua District Council is a new representative for the lower North Island. There is a vacancy on the committee for a women's representative, and a request for expressions of interest for this role will be sent out soon.

Congratulations to Benedict, Eleanor and Noel.

Libraries hui in Auckland, 1-2 September

In early September, PSA delegates from council libraries across New Zealand will gather in Auckland for a hui titled Libraries of the Future; Stand Together for Quality Community Libraries.

Library staff comprise the single largest group of PSA members in local government. The Local Government Sector Committee is keen to improve representative structures in our union to strengthen communication and decision making to improve our working lives.

In 2015, LIANZA organised a significant national conference bringing together a large number of participants from the library community to discuss the future of libraries. A number of issues were identified in the conference report that relate to the employment of librarians. We would like to plan a coordinated approach to the objectives reached at the conference, including those raised by our delegates.

Equal pay is one of the PSA’s four strategic goals. This hui will explore the legal and political context of our Worth 100% campaign, and in particular focus on the issue of equal pay as it affects members in libraries. Participants will identify how members can be actively involved in our PSA goal of achieving equal pay by 2024.

Wairarapa delegates meet with Local Government Commission

The Local Government Commission is the body charged with overseeing the development of local government structures in New Zealand. In 2015/16 the Commission championed a proposal to amalgamate the councils in the greater Wellington region, however this did not achieve wide-ranging support and was suspended. The Commission has however floated an alternative concept which would see the amalgamation of the 3 territorial local bodies in the Wairarapa with possibly some form of involvement of regional council services.

The PSA approached the Commission about establishing a formal consultation process that includes the delegates in affected councils. This request was agreed to and the first joint meeting was held in Carterton on 22 June, which allowed delegates to ask questions and clarify the amalgamation process.

It is expected that the Commission will make an announcement concerning its preferred option in August. The process will then go “on hold” until after the local body elections and community consultation will recommence in early 2017.

New performance measures for councils

Local Government New Zealand has announced a new independent standard for measuring the performance of local authorities. Councils who choose to participate will be assessed every three years, and given an A, B or C standard. Results will be publicised.

The standard will be overseen by a standalone board, and independent assessors will be contracted, ahead of the inaugural round of assessments to be undertaken later this year. The first results will be published publicly in early 2017.

For more information, the LGNZ website has the prospectus outlining the key features, and a supporting document outlining the assessment system and indicators to be used.

Further Vulnerable Children Act measures come into force

The Government has brought forward the date that local government workers will be subject to the workforce screening and vetting requirements introduced by the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 The screening and vetting process will be phased in – beginning with new core children’s workers (newly appointed into a position) – and the workforce categories that will be affected are as follows:

  1. Educational services provided by or on behalf of a local authority to children, including (but not limited to) swimming instructors, digital literacy programmes, etc.
  2. Social and support services provided by or on behalf of a local authority to children and/or families, including (but not limited to) counselling, mentoring, community outreach, advocacy and engagement services, etc.
  3. Services delivered in public environments by or on behalf of a local authority that allow for unsupervised interaction with children, including (but not limited to) surf/beach patrols, skate park guardians, road safety coordinators, etc.
  4. Services provided at local authority-funded community facilities that require interaction with children, including (but not limited to) sports and recreation centres, libraries, swimming pools, galleries, and community centres.

The introduction of the vetting and screening requirements will be phased in according to the following timetable:

  • 1 September 2016 for new core children’s workers (newly appointed into a position);
  • 1 September 2017 for new non-core children’s workers (newly appointed into a position);
  • 1 September 2019 and 1 September 2020 respectively for core and non-core workers already employed.

We have established a working relationship with the Children’s Action Team at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to ensure that they hear any concerns our members may have about this process, and more information can be found at their website. MSD is also working with Local Government NZ and local government managers to disseminate information to local government organisations.