The review of local government will concentrate on evolution for the next 30 years.

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An independent study of local government will look at how councils will keep and enhance the well-being of New Zealanders in the areas they represent for the far future.

Watch the announcement from Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta here:

Announcing the review today, Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta said it would focus on how our system of local democracy needed to evolve over the next 30 years.

Mahuta said now more than ever, local governance participation and democracy needed to be strengthened.

“It is about our people.”

The approach was needed to improve wellbeing of communities and environment, she said.

It needed to honour Te Tiriti O Waitangi too, she said.

“It’s an inclusive approach, it speaks to everybody.”

It had been more than 30 years since the last meaningful review of the sector, Mahuta said.

“LGNZ believes that the time is right to review proactively the local government framework in order to ensure we are locking in the strengths of the existing system while addressing its weaknesses and enabling democratic decision making at the appropriate level.”

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The process would have to imagine Aotearoa in 30 years time and “describe what a thriving, robust system of local democracy looks like.

“This is a futures thinking exercise and it’s at the heart of what the next generation of local government must be.”

Mahuta said councils were facing a wave of reforms that would significantly affect their traditional roles and functions.

The pathway for change had to be considered, she said.

“It’s unrealistic to think we will be able to transform such a complex system in the short term. We think to think about how we stage a process of comprehensive reform and what our initial priorities are.”

The review panel

The review panel would consider what local government does, how it does it, how it pays for it, and explore local government’s future, including:

  • roles, functions and partnerships
  • representation and governance
  • funding and financing

Jim Palmer, the newly retired chief executive of the Waimakariri District Council, will preside over the forum.

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Ex Deputy State Services Commissioner John Ombler, strategic planning expert Antoine Coffin, Gael Surgenor, former Auckland deputy mayor and councillor Penny Hulse are all on the stand.

It is scheduled to have an interim assessment completed by September 2021, a draught report completed by September 2022, and a full report completed by April 2023.

Mahuta said the timing was planned to give “serious considerations of the review findings to inform Parliamentarians about the sector and stakeholder views of what the sector should look like”.

She did not want it seen as a “partisan work programme”.

Local Government New Zealand President Stuart Crosby said with major reform coming, there was an opportunity to make sure both tiers of government were aligned while enabling local leadership.

“The operational realities for local government are huge urban growth and tourism pressures, greater focus on environmental protections and climate change pressures, all matched to outdated funding tools…

“The review panel must deliver a bold response that is in tune with the needs of our diverse communities and our treaty partnership, and which considers how our future generations are afforded a voice and a choice in their towns, cities and regions, and how their local initiatives are funded.”

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The recommendations from the review would require “deep engagement with all communities” and Crosby encouraged the panel to work with “iwi, community groups and beyond”.

“We encourage all New Zealanders to engage with the Future for Local Government programme – this is your opportunity to shape local democracy, the closest form of government to the people”.

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