Tremain out - Paula Bennett in! 
Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 11:47AM
Bill Barclay

As part of the reshuffle announced by John Key earlier this week, Paula Bennett has been brought in as the new Local Government minister replacing Chris Tremain who is retiring.

One would have to say that Tremain will not be missed - he has distinguished himself by being a totally forgettable Minister, and I have no doubt that there will be expressions of relief amongst the LG power elite at his departure. Apart from smiling at every photo opportunity there appears to have virtually nothing he achieved while occupying the role. After the activism of his predecessor - Dr Smith, his apparent inability to take control of the portfolio was a worry. Much of what Nick Smith accomplished languished in his wake. 

I have no doubt that Tremain was leaned on to retire along with many other non-performers on the Government benches. It is a pity that our man Scott Simpson is not yet in a position to claim a place, even one outside Cabinet - hopefully it will not be too long delayed - he clearly has talent, but was said to have upset colleagues early on - hopefully not a permanent situation.  

Never mind, in the meantime we have Paula Bennett in the role to add to her Social Development and Employment roles. She has demonstrated exceptional abilities to date, and hopefully will comes to grips with the complexities of the new role in short order. There are some major legislative issues that need to be dealt with - not the least of which surrounds the area of resource consents. She should clearly understand the ramifications of what has been proposed before implementing any changes - they all have 'fish-hooks' with a potential downside for all Councils.

Ms Bennett will also need to look closely at the empowerment of Mayors - starting with disastrous changes that were implemented with the Auckland Super-city. We are yet to fully understand the full implications of these changes that have been largely extended to other councils. We are yet to fully appreciate the manner in which Mayors will behave given the temptations to ignore normal councillor checks and balances that have provided a modicum of restraint on their powers in the past, that pertain under the new arrangements.

This is particularly the case here in TCDC where the Mayor has shown indications of impatience with any oposing point of view, and a willingness to ride roughshod. With a slate of apparently like-minded suporters around the Council table, and a compliant media, there is virtually no visible restraints on his powers, and he has already shown his intention to implement changes in favour of his supporters during this current term. His appointment of Mr Hopper to the Economic Developoment Committee is but one of the early manifestations of this tendency.




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