Challenging Times for Local Government

Challenging Times for Local Government

Thousands of PSA members work for local authorities around New Zealand.

They provide their fellow ratepayers with the best possible libraries, parks and swimming pools, civil defence, clean streets and safe buildings.

With income from sources such as parking, pools and airports drying up during lockdown, Covid-19 has reduced the revenue they have to provide those services.


That’s left councils all over the country trying to work out how to deal with the shortfall.

Councils are more restricted in their borrowing options and cannot rely on deficit spending to see out a crisis to the same extent as central government can.

However, they do have options. Most importantly they can recognise they don’t have to deal with this challenge in one financial year – they can balance their budgets over several years to smooth the impact.

Most can also safely increase their debt levels and the Government is looking at ways to enable councils to borrow more. The Office of the Auditor-General has advised it is comfortable with councils taking on more debt in the current circumstances.

Other options include raising rates or fees, selling assets, cutting spending or postponing planned projects and infrastructure maintenance.  Most councils appear likely to deploy more than one of these approaches.


Auckland Council, for example is facing a $525 million budget hole. Staff earning over $100,000 a year have been asked to take voluntary pay cuts. Hundreds of temporary and contractor workers have been let go, and staff vacancies are being left unfilled.

The Council is considering an Emergency Budget that could see lower than originally envisaged rates increases, which could impact on services. The PSA has put in a submission on the draft budget and is working with the Council with the goal of preserving jobs and services.

Invercargill City Council proposed pay cuts during the lockdown, until the PSA challenged them about it, but they are now proposing restructuring and redundancies.


This debate is important to understand. There are lobbyists promoting rates freezes and budget cuts without understanding the negative impact those would have on communities, and there are councils who might be tempted to go along with them.

Extra savings per household would be small, but the impact on council services and the low-income people who rely on them would be significant. Council expenditure on capital works and wages is also important to local economies.

With a number of councils considering rates freezes and budget cuts, all union members must be prepared to defend our community services and the people who make them possible.



Also in this issue:

Life in Lockdown

Home became a workplace for thousands of PSA members during Level 4 lockdown.

Read More

The Story behind the Fight for PPE

It was “humbling” for PSA delegate Jacob Crown to see how everyone stood together to campaign for PPE for care and support workers during the Covid Crisis.

Read More

Stepping Up in a Crisis

Thousands of PSA members showed the value of what they do as they responded to a global pandemic by delivering essential services during the lockdown.

Read More

From exploitation to empowerment

Within months of arriving in New Zealand, Mandeep Bela was being exploited by his employer.

Read More

The New Normal

The Covid-19 pandemic will change our future in ways we cannot yet know.

Read More

A big idea for unprecedented times

The Covid crisis has shown us that when New Zealanders pull together we can achieve amazing things.

Read More

Our candidates for PSA President

A new PSA president will be elected by attendees at the PSA Congress in Wellington on November 16-18. Here are the candidates:

Read More

Building Better Together

As we emerge from the COVID crisis, Working Life asks Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff how we should rebuild for a brighter future

Read More

From Crisis to Resilience

The challenges the world faces to rebuild from the Covid crisis have been laid bare by International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Read More

Mana Wahine goes to Parliament

Te Runanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina members spread the word about their Mana Wahine treaty claim when they met with some of Labour’s Māori Caucus at Parliament in March.

Read More

Doing the Mahi

Delegates at the first hui of the Inland Revenue Rūnanga came away inspired to “do the mahi”.

Read More

Hoea te Local Government Waka

A new Local Government Rūnanga held its first hui in March.

Read More

Leading the Way

If a meat inspector from Invercargill can become a PSA President then anybody can.

Read More

On The Job

Rose Lee is not your stereotypical librarian.

Read More

Climate Talk

As we grapple with the upheaval caused by Covid-19, I see people asking whether now is the right time to talk about climate change.

Read More

President's Message

Mā ngā huruhuru, ka rere te manu
It is the feathers that enable the bird to fly

Read More

News in Brief

In our briefs section we reveal what you did in the lockdown, preview the Women's Network Conference, and much more...

Read More

PPE for PSA Photos

PSA care and support workers took part in a Global Day of Action to demand personal protective equipment, pay and respect in April.

Read More

Pets of the PSA

PSA members showed some love for their pets during lockdown - proudly sending in photos of their new office buddies to our PSA Facebook page.

Read More

Te Reo o te Tari

In this issue we bring you some handy kupu for your workspace - whether you're working in the office or at home.

Read More