The Minister for Local Government, Premila Kumar is currently leading a Ministerial delegation in New Zealand at the invitation of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) through the Programme for Technical Assistance to Pacific Island Countries.
The PacificTA programme is funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and provides for the exchange of expertise between local governments and New Zealand and Pacific Island Countries.
A meaningful meeting was held with the Mayor of Auckland, Mr Phil Goff, who has shown interest in assisting the Fijian Government in moving Suva City Council forward. The need for guidance and expert assistance to bring about positive changes for the welfare of the communities and relevant stakeholders was discussed at length.
While in New Zealand, Hon. Kumar is exploring a number of areas such as Waterfront Development, Planning, Digital Services and various functions of the local authorities in New Zealand. The main objective of the visit to cities such as Auckland and Wellington is to understand the best practices and lessons learnt from the transformational initiatives of the New Zealand local authorities.
LGNZ comprises 78 local, regional and unitary councils. There is considerable diversity in the range of activities that councils provide which reflects the different circumstances that cities, towns and communities find themselves in. Councils in New Zealand are obliged under the Local Government Act to undertake long term financial and urban planning, including asset management with a view to improve outcomes for their communities.
The Fiji Ministry of Local Government, in cooperation with the Auckland Council, will work towards uplifting the profiles of the Municipal Councils in Fiji. Key initiation areas the Ministry plans to work on are the amendments to the legislations/regulations to meet the needs and demands of communities, and Councils’ corporate plans and organizational structures. The much-needed reforms will ensure appropriate service delivery by the municipal councils in their respective areas. The Ministry is mindful of the social, economic, cultural and environment impacts of such modifications.
Innovative transformation of the 13 Municipal Councils have already started with Suva City. The collaboration with the Auckland Council will provide an opportunity to roll out the CouncilMARK Project that commenced earlier this year.
In the inaugural year of the CouncilMARK project, Suva City Council was assessed over the key indicators such as governance, leadership and strategy; transparency in financial decision-making; service delivery and asset management; and communications and community engagement.
Fiji is already in the midst of undergoing digitalization where Fijians are able to seek services online without the need to undergo manual process of doing things. As such, Ministry of Local Government has planned to bring about transformation as far as getting building construction plan approvals is concerned. This will ensure ease of doing business in Fiji where the processes for obtaining building permits will be made easier and overtime an increasing number of services by the local government shall be made available online.
“This regulatory game changer will provide an opportunity to seek building approvals promptly from anywhere and anytime. It is important to have systems and mechanisms that can ensure continuity and certainty,” added Hon. Kumar.
The Ministry of Local Government intends to build a prosperous Fiji, which can enhance into a place to live, visit and invest. The idea is to enable people to obtain effective and efficient services that are value for money and meet the needs of our growing population.