Improvements to Local Government

  • Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Local Government

The Minister of Local Government, Hon Nanaia Mahuta, today announced interim measures to reform the local government reorganisation process to provide greater stability and certainty for local authorities and communities.

“Currently, any individual can request that the Local Government Commission investigate a proposal to reorganise or amalgamate a local authority. I intend to reinstate the requirement that requests can only be initiated by ten per cent of the electors of an affected area.

“These proposed changes will also introduce a new locally-led reorganisation process, where local authorities can investigate reorganisation proposals themselves,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

This is the first stage of a programme to disestablish the Local Government Commission in its current form. Stage two will consider new ways of carrying out necessary ongoing functions, in partnership with local government.

“Recent debates about amalgamation of local councils have proven divisive and unhelpful. These debates have been distractions from the real issues facing local communities.

“Wider reform of the reorganisation process will be designed so that it better meets the current and future needs of local government and communities. I want to enhance local responsibility and allow for greater community say, providing independent decision-making where this is needed.

“This will lead to flexible arrangements which are locally-led and responsive to community needs, allowing for different types of reform and for local authorities to work together without needing large-scale reorganisations. I see the role for central government as supporting councils to serve local communities,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

There is a strong case for disestablishing the LGC in its current form. An independent report commissioned by the Department of Internal Affairs found that the concept and rationale of the LGC is ‘relatively weakly aligned’ with the current and future needs of the local government sector. The LGC’s main function of considering major reorganisation proposals is ‘no longer essential or useful’ and does not provide value for money.

These changes will be implemented through the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2), currently awaiting committee of the whole House. Once enacted, all reorganisation requests, except for those already accepted by the LGC, will need to meet the new requirements for significant community support.

A copy of the independent report is available at the DIA website https://www.dia.govt.nz/Proactive-Releases#LG).