25 Jul 2016

Backing for proposal to move state services to region

10:49 am on 25 July 2016

Local Government New Zealand has backed a proposal by a Nelson city councillor to have some state services shifted from Wellington to the regions.

Councillor Matt Lawrey, nursing two broken arms after a recent cycling accident, said he was thrilled the remit was passed on Sunday with 73 percent support at the national organisation's annual meeting in Dunedin.

Nelson City Councillor Matt Lawrey

Matt Lawrey Photo: RNZ / Tracey Neal

He believed it was a timely idea.

"If technology can make it possible for scientists, doctors and academics to collaborate across times zones, it must be possible for more government services and civil servants to be based outside of Wellington.

"The opportunities for our regions to benefit from this idea will only increase as communication technology becomes even smarter, so now is a great time for New Zealand to start seriously looking at what is possible," Mr Lawrey said.

The remit, which gained the unanimous supported of the Nelson City Council, was one of eight voted on at the annual conference. The proposal now becomes official policy to be actioned by Local Government New Zealand, Mr Lawrey said.

He said moving some government services and civil servants out of the capital could boost economic activity in the regions by potentially saving the taxpayer money through lower rental costs, and increasing the resilience of government services in the event of a major natural disaster hitting the capital.

There was talk of a working group to be set up to explore the concept further, Mr Lawrey said.

He told RNZ the idea came from thinking about what existed in his electorate, and how regional development might be boosted.

"If Nelson was a government department for example, I reckon it would be the Department of Conservation, and if DOC was a region in New Zealand I think it would be Nelson, so I got to thinking, 'how much of it could be based here'?

"What I'd like to see is a ruler run over the civil service to see what parts have to be in Wellington and what parts could be in other parts of the country. Once that's done we'd be in a position to see what's possible," Mr Lawrey said.

Beyond that, it would be up to the government to decide.

"There's an appetite for it in the regions - a lot are looking for regional development opportunities and technology will allow it to happen. I've spoken to some MPs who think it's a great idea and others think services should stay in Wellington."