Powering up community wellbeing

Minister of Local Government Hon Nanaia Mahuta has announced a far-reaching programme to support New Zealand communities realise their ambitions, goals and potential.

“This year  we introduced the four well-beings -- social, economic, environmental and cultural priorities -- into the fabric of local government. We will now be working closely with councils and communities to power up the ways they can articulate and realise the things that matter most to them,’’ Nanaia Mahuta says.

Specific options to be explored as part of the programme include:

  • Increasing local government’s involvement in the design and targeting of public services provided by central government;
  • Placing more emphasis on the ongoing relationship between councils and communities as the basis for community participation; 
  • Innovative ways of conducting community participation and building the capability to support it;
  • Aiming for more effective and meaningful council relationships with Māori;
  • Ensuring council plans prioritise community wellbeing and are driven by robust data.

 “We know that councils never stopped working on these critical aspects of community life, but we believe there is more that can be achieved by focusing on some key aspects of local decision-making.’’

The range of outcomes that could follow would depend on individual community preferences, but could include regional growth, socially inclusive and resilient communities, a healthier environment and support for appropriate community infrastructure.

“Our Government is committed to a strong, robust local government sector focused on wellbeing. 

 “Although there are good examples of innovative practices in the system already, we want to work with local government to broaden and accelerate their uptake.

“We recognise that beyond certain ‘universal’ needs, different communities have different priorities. This work will ensure our communities are empowered to enrich, not only their own lives, but to strengthen local democracy and make it more relevant,” says Nanaia Mahuta.

Related Cabinet paper and minute: https://www.dia.govt.nz/Central-Local-Government-Partnership

Questions and Answers

Q: Why is this programme necessary?

A: To achieve maximum wellbeing for our communities, we must encourage best practice across some key aspects of local decision-making.  We need:

  • better alignment between central and local government in the provision of public services;
  • to facilitate the inclusion of wellbeing priorities and good data in council planning; and,
  • importantly, we need to promote effective community participation and partnership with Māori on the decisions and issues that impact their own wellbeing.
     
    Q: What outcomes do you expect to achieve through it?
    A: Ultimately, there are a wide range of outcomes that we would expect to see including regional growth, socially inclusive resilient communities and increased environmental responsiveness but these will depend on community preferences.
     
    Q: How do you intend to work with local government on this?
    A:  Over the next few months, we intend to establish working groups with local government practitioners to help develop policy options.  I would then look to discuss these options with local government leaders early in 2020.
     
    Q: What happens then, and what are the anticipated timelines?
    A:  We are hoping to refine the policy options during the early part of 2020 and announce specific initiatives in partnership with the local government sector by May next year.
     
    Q: How does this relate to the Government’s other local government work programmes?
    A: All our local government programmes are about working with local government to improve intergenerational wellbeing and make New Zealand a better place for all New Zealanders. This includes having a fit-for-purpose local government financing and funding system, working together to build community resilience and mitigate the effects of climate change, making sure all New Zealanders have access to safe drinking water, ensuring high-growth councils have the tools to provide necessary infrastructure, supporting councils to achieve more effective relationships with Māori, and developing strategies to assist communities impacted by high tourism demand.  
     
    Q: Does this programme take account of Local Government New Zealand’s “Localism’’ project and if so how?
    A: Many of the aims and goals of this programme coincide and overlap with LGNZ’s localism project. In many respects we are on the same page. We do not believe, however, that formal devolution is an effective answer to the challenges we all face at the local level. There is much more we can do to broaden and accelerate the excellent work that most councils already do towards community wellbeing.