Major opportunity to revitalise local government

April 23, 2021


“The independent review of local government announced today is a genuine opportunity to address a wave of serious issues across housing, transport and water by strengthening the ability of councils to execute, address long standing infrastructure funding and financing challenges and ensure that New Zealand becomes a more competitive, equitable and sustainable society,” says Hamish Glenn Policy Director at Infrastructure New Zealand.

“Minister Mahuta has today announced a major review of local government to be chaired by former Waimakariri CEO Jim Palmer and with panel support from John Ombler QSO, Antoine Coffin, Gael Surgenor and Penny Hulse.

“We are very pleased to see the review panel has been given a broad mandate. The panel will consider the future of local government, including roles, functions and partnerships; representation and governance; and funding and financing.

“Councils provide critical infrastructure services across New Zealand, including the planning, funding, delivery and regulation of billions of dollars of assets.

“The current local government system was largely set in place in 1989 and is simply not geared for the kinds of challenges we see today.

“Complex environmental issues like climate change and freshwater degradation have combined with major economic trends around remote working and digitisation to fundamentally change our expectations of local government standards and services.

“In the context of inadequate funding and financing arrangements for infrastructure, councils have not been able to keep up.

“The review announced today gives the country a two year programme to discuss exactly what type of system might work better.

“There needs to be a genuine first principles discussion around what services are best delivered locally, which services regionally and what centrally.

“Effective strategic planning and infrastructure delivery needs a degree of scale that 67 territorial authorities are not optimised to implement.

“But equally, there are a range of public services which do not benefit from scale and which can and should be delivered closer to affected communities.

“It is very important that central government itself keeps an open mind to reform as the review may identify opportunities to transfer responsibilities and resourcing to local government to better incentivise decisions.

“This is a huge opportunity not just to strengthen local government but to improve the entire system of domestic decision making so that New Zealanders continue to enjoy high incomes, a sustainable environment and equal access to opportunities,” Glenn says.


For further information and comment contact Hamish Glenn on 021 034 7229