The Future for Local Government Review Panel (the Panel) began consulting with New Zealanders in early 2022. LIANZA engaged in this early-stage consultation by providing a sector workshop and facilitating a webinar, compered by Jehan Cassinader.
In October 2022 the Panel released a draft report He mata whāriki, he matawhānui, which posed 29 draft recommendations and key questions. Submissions were sought in response to this draft report which will shape the final report to be delivered in June 2023.
LIANZA’s submission was prepared by Allison Dobbie (lead), Sue Sutherland, Bernie Hawke, Katie Brazil, Debbie Duncan, Louise LaHatte, Amanda Cossham, Rochelle Turnbull and Jenny Barnett. Allison Dobbie commented on the opportunity the review created.
LIANZA’s submission highlights the radical responses that the Panel sought. It also noted that the Panel had in some cases backed away from a courageous stance on its recommendations. Especially in relation to scale, structure, funding, stewardship, and mandates.
LIANZA’s submission shows that public libraries have a fundamental and growing role in helping local government to thrive in all aspects of its role. It welcomed the overall direction of the Panel’s draft report and the priorities identified and particularly endorsing the focus on:
- Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi and genuine partnerships
- wellbeing and place
- partnerships and collaboration
- the need for change in public service attitudes towards local government.
LIANZA reinforced the role of public libraries as critical and effective enablers of community wellbeing. We made the case that libraries should be recognised and supported in all government planning and delivery, and at both central and local levels of government. The submission illustrates the points raised with case studies from across the sector, including international examples.
Strong support is given in the submission to Te Tiriti-based partnerships as fundamental to local government’s role and function in achieving community wellbeing and meeting Te Tiriti obligations. The submission notes that while public libraries strive to work with Māori, often at the leading edge within their local authority, there is a major gap and potential exists to truly meet the needs of Māori as customers and Tiriti partners. A stronger statutory framework is required to move local government in this direction and this needs to happen at a faster pace. The submission also supports the recommendation that central government provide a transitional fund to subsidise the cost of building both Māori and council capability and capacity for a Tiriti-based partnership in local governance, and indicates how libraries are well-placed to work with tamariki and their whānau to help build capacity over time.
As democratic processes [AC1] move online, LIANZA says, library professionals, library computing and Wi-Fi resources, are enablers that allow for participation in and awareness of democratic processes. LIANZA calls on the government to fund public libraries sufficiently to make this possible.
A case is made for central government funding for public libraries where they are delivering national benefits, asserting that the current model of funding is unsustainable and unfair to ratepayers.
“Public libraries deliver wider national outcomes and therefore the case can be made for increased central government funding and support of public libraries. For example, in the areas of digital equity and inclusion, access to quality information, civic participation, learning and literacy, identity and belonging, and wellbeing,” Allison Dobbie commented.
The Panel in its report suggests a reallocation of central and local government roles. LIANZA’s submission supports the strengthening of the National Library’s role to support the development, equity and effectiveness of public library services across Aotearoa New Zealand.
The submission also recommends that local government should be mandated to work in partnership with schools and kura to support the learning needs of children, underpinned by Ministry of Education funding and National Library resources. It suggests that pilots be undertaken to test what solutions might work best so that children everywhere have access to school libraries and qualified school librarians.
A similar recommendation is made in relation to prisons, that provision of library services there should be a partnership between local government and the Department of Corrections Ara Poutama Aotearoa.
The submission does not support any specific model of local government but suggests that there are five design factors that should be taken into account – equity, diversity, scale, localness and flexibility.
“Post-code and digital inequities exist across the country in terms of access to good quality library services and information resources. We’d like to see Government take steps to address this as a result of the Review.”
The Panel suggests the need for much greater shared services collaboration. Collaborations already existing in the sector, such as APNK, Kōtui and EPIC. They are put forward as models that could be extended and strengthened to better support the work of library and information services. As are international models of shared funding between local and central government.
“This has been an opportunity for LIANZA to raise awareness of the unusual status of public libraries in Aotearoa New Zealand as funded solely by local government and without any form of legislative basis. It has allowed us to bring attention to some alternative international models for support of public libraries, such as in Australia and Ireland,” says Allison Dobbie.
Once the Panel submits its final report and recommendations in June there is still a long way to go. It is then up to the Government to consider and decide how to respond and what recommendations to adopt.
“The LIANZA submission process generated some great thinking and raised questions about perceived barriers, for example, is this really a barrier to working more collaboratively or just something in our heads? Maybe it will help us identify some things we could be doing anyway, regardless of what the final report recommends or how the government responds.”
The submission has been an opportunity for LIANZA, Te Rōpū Whakahau, School Libraries Association New Zealand Aotearoa, Public Libraries NZ, Local Government NZ and Taituarā to work more closely together. A big thank you to Allison Dobbie and the submission team.
- Go here to view the LIANZA submission.
- Taituarā Living Libraries: The Value of Public Libraries in Aotearoa
- Local Government New Zealand submission