The Social Principle of Subsidiarity – what we need here in NZ

Although I am not a catholic, I have always been attracted to the catholic social principle of subsidiarity when it comes to how we organise and govern ourselves as a society.

Subsidiarity is the principle of devolving decisions to the lowest practical level and the intention is to have better services, better democracy and better enablers for economic growth based on local knowledge and local motivation.

 The belief is that if we centralise all activities of government, we end up with a range of perverse outcomes…..

  • Reduced social capital (TRUST)
  • Reduced personal responsibility
  • Reduced democratic participation
  • Reduced community spirit

 Subsidiarity depends on the willingness of people to become active participants in civil society, to engage with contemporary cultural and social issues. However, subsidiarity does not claim that smaller is always better, instead it asks the question what level of governance best delivers that outcome we are seeking…. Government at all levels must be focused on the common good. So the question is then, which services are best delivered by central government, which services are best delivered at a regional level, and which are best dealt with by local communities, neighborhoods and families?

There is an undercurrent within the NZ political environment at present to centralise more of the services we have traditionally managed locally. The argument is that as a small island nation with a population smaller than many international cities, we are over-governed and that this is costly and inefficient. There are too many elected officials, too much red tape and too many compliance requirements.

According to the OECD, (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) 30 percent of member state public spending is controlled by local government on average, but in New Zealand that figure stands at 11 per cent.

That means that 89 per cent of the money spent on roads, schools, health and community development at a local level is dictated from Wellington.

As someone committed to my local community, the idea that someone sitting at a desk in Wellington can make good decisions on our behalf makes me very nervous.

Judy Turner, UnitedFuture Deputy Leader

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