National halts Labour’s local government power grab

National has forced the Government to back down on an electoral power grab buried in a Covid bill.

“The Government proposed to give itself the power to repeatedly delay local body elections through a change hidden quietly in the Covid Response (Management Measures) Legislation Bill,” says National’s Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon.

“The bill allowed the Government to adjourn local elections multiple times without constraint – and not just in an election year, but the year after as well.

“As an example, it would have let the Government delay one of next year’s council elections by six weeks at a time, right through to the end of 2023.

“The Government has now buckled under the pressure and will delete that clause from the bill.

“The apparent reason for this draconian change was so local elections can be more flexibly managed during a pandemic – forgetting that both the Government and councils already have flexibility around elections.”

Covid Response spokesman Chris Bishop says it is ridiculous that electoral changes were included in the bill in the first place.

“We argued it was outrageous Labour would use a sweeping Covid bill, being rammed through Parliament under a shortened timeframe, with almost no proper public consultation, to make an enduring electoral change.

“Hopefully the Government’s sudden reversal is a sign they’ll do the same on its Three Waters asset grab plan, and listen to the tens of thousands of New Zealanders demanding that it be dumped – but we won’t hold out much hope.”