DIA local government website upsets councils

Two websites could lead to duplication and confusion, councils say

Department of Internal Affairs plans to launch a local government web site have upset the incumbent Local Government Online, which last week relaunched its enhanced portal.

The DIA site will present central government information, most significantly from Statistics New Zealand. “The rest will be links and civics information about how local government and central government interact,” says spokesman Colin Feslier. “There will be some overlap but it would be perfectly appropriate if they link to our site.”

He was not prepared to discuss costs and the timing of the DIA launch, but Computerworld has been told there is a budget of $4 million over five years, with a likely launch date of the second week in August.

At last week’s relaunch of the Local Government Online site, chairman Paddy Clifford, who is CEO of the Hurunui District Council, commented on what he described as the unwillingness of central government to create a common database. There was confusion about the DIA site, he said.

Later, in an interview, he said he hadn’t been given a clear answer why DIA wanted to establish a database as a separate initiative.

“We approached the e-government unit when it was first formed. They didn’t want to know. They didn’t seem to understand the role that local government plays, and they chose to exclude us.

“For whatever reason, our offer was rejected. Local government needs one portal. There is no need to duplicate effort and services.”

After a December executive committee meeting of the Society of Local Government Managers, a joint proposal from SOLGM, Local Government New Zealand and Local Government Online was put to the Local Government Minister, Chris Carter, suggesting a partnership approach under which the proposed DIA database and the Minister’s column would be hosted on Local Government Online. Carter turned down the proposal.

Local Government New Zealand president Basil Morrison said at the time that there were concerns about increased compliance costs on local government to provide information, the potential for standardisation of reporting with insufficient respect for local authority diversity, and the potential for the information to be used against the sector, through performance monitoring and benchmarking, by a future minister or government.

“This carries the risk of inappropriately imposing an accountability relationship to central government that would be at odds with local government’s accountability to local communities,” he said.

Local Government Online was established in 1997 by SOLGM and the Society of Local Government Information Management to help local government bodies to transform into e-local government. It disseminates information for all 86 local authorities.

In June, Local Government New Zealand and Civic Insurance, which insures local bodies, became shareholders in Local Government Online.

The website currently receives around 450,000 visits a year, generating 800,000 page views.

New services on the enhanced site include an online tendering system for local government projects; a careers site; security policy, which is an automated process that ensures councils have processes to prevent unauthorised access to secure data and which provides data recovery in the event of a computer loss; a benchmark system for emergency management; a health and safety management system; and a safety management audit that ensures all OSH documentation is up to date.

All 86 councils have their own web sites. Local Government Online is a single portal that spans them all.

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