One of our policy suggestions is to give communities more authority to design and deliver policy, reducing the role of central government. We already do that to a large degree in education and health and, of course, local government has responsibilities in environmental management, town planning and in other areas too. At the moment all of this ‘devolved’ authority is permitted by Parliament and written into legislation that Parliament has passed. At any time Parliament could take that authority back and place it with central government. You can imagine if a ‘bad enough’ job was being done by the community or local government that’s exactly what would happen. So today, with the devolution we have, there already are implied ‘minimum standards’ applying to the way education and health services are delivered, and how local governments make and carry out their decisions. We have a network of laws and processes designed to monitor and assess this. The Official Information Act (OIA), for example, is aimed at helping the press and ultimately the public monitor what is going on. Legislation spelling out what local governments must report, and when, has a similar purpose. The Human Rights Act 1993 sets minimum standards for how anyone is treated – whether it be central or local government, a community provider, a school or an employer or someone else. Our suspicion is that in many areas this legislation is not doing the job well enough – there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of discrimination despite the Human Rights Act. You don’t have to look far to see people lacking the resources and good health needed to actively participate in society. All of this suggests our current laws and processes designed to deliver at least minimum standards might be too weak at the moment, and should be carefully evaluated and reformed where necessary. There is also important work to be done of checking that we have a consensus around what exactly we mean by minimum standards. That is a conversation about values that must include everyone and won’t be easy. In education for example some Maori communities don’t agree with the standards against which they having to report student progress and that makes the process of monitoring and assessing the education delivered to children at these schools additionally problematic. While we recommend devolving authority into more areas a prerequisite for that is having first done the hard work to establish a consensus over the minimum standards to be met and having effective mechanisms for protecting these basic human rights.

How do we ensure minimum standards are maintained? was last modified: January 5th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan

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