The Government has appointed a panel to oversee the Future for the Local Government Review. We ran a story in InfraRead’s August edition that looked at the Review’s establishment.

The Review is considering:

      • the functions, roles, and structures of local government
      • relationships between local government, central government, iwi, Māori, businesses, communities and other organisations
      • necessary changes for local government to most effectively reflect and respond to their communities
      • the embodiment of Te Tiriti o Waitangi
      • funding arrangements for local government.

The panel released its interim report late last month. It can be viewed here.

The Interim Report sets out the broad direction and five priority questions for the review, in order to support engagement about the future of local governance and democracy. This work will lead to a further report with draft recommendations in 2022.

The five priority questions are the heart of the review’s next steps and they are as follows:

    1. How should the system of local governance be reshaped so it can adapt to future challenges and enable communities to thrive?
    2. What are the future functions, roles and essential features of New Zealand’s system of local government?
    3. How might a system of local governance embody authentic partnership under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, creating conditions for shared prosperity and wellbeing?
    4. What needs to change so local government and its leaders can best reflect and respond to the communities they serve?
    5. What should change in local governance funding and financing to ensure viability and sustainability, fairness and equity, and maximum wellbeing?

The Interim Report marks an important milestone in the review process and makes a strong case for change. It confirms all is not well in New Zealand’s local government system and that change is needed for local government to remain relevant. The Interim Report identifies several issues, most of which are well-known such as funding and financing constraints, governance matters, as well as scope creep due to central government requirements that add to councils’ financial pressure. The interim report says the review process will see new local government structures recommended.

The Review’s next stage will involve a broader public engagement about the future of local governance and democracy in New Zealand, alongside research and policy development. After completing that work, the panel will report to the Minister for Local Government with draft findings and recommendations by late 2022.

The third stage will involve formal consultation about the Panel’s draft recommendations. It will consider public submissions before delivering its final report in April 2023.

Responding to our questions at a recent briefing webinar, the Panel has said that local government could do generally better in terms of delivering on the “four wellbeings”, particularly on economic and social wellbeing, while also noting that while the four wellbeings form a primary purpose of local government, it is not just local government that should be primarily responsible on delivering on those.