The purpose of the Taituarã Democracy and Governance Support Working Party (DGS)

  1. Assist the local government sector to achieve high standards in the conduct of democracy services and governance support activity.
  2. Assist the local government sector to achieve high standards in the planning, management and conduct of elections and polls under the Local Electoral Act 2001.
  3. In conjunction with other agencies, enhance public understanding of the role of local democracy within New Zealand’s system of governance, and public participation of local democracy.


  • Monitor the environment within which local authorities operate for relevant issues impacting on the democracy and governance support function including proposed legislative change and developments in overseas jurisdictions
  • Prepare and present submissions to appropriate organisations and Ministers representing local government sector concerns from a management and operational perspective.
  • Provide advice to local authorities and Electoral Officers on issues within its area of focus. This may involve the preparation of good practice guidance, tools and training
  • Participate in programmes that build community understanding of, and capacity to contribute to, the local democratic process.
  • Participate in, or undertake, national programmes to help promote awareness of and participation in local elections and polls, subject to the approval of the Chief Executive.
  • Develop and maintain cooperative working relationships with the local government sector and other organisations that have related interests

View/download the Democracy and Governance Support Working Party Terms of Reference.

Current Members


David Ward, Chief Executive - Selwyn District Council

Deputy Chair; Chair of the Electoral Subcommittee:

Dean Heiford, Manager Economic, Community & Support Services - Marlborough District Council


Natalie Palmer, Unit Manager, Communication and Engagement - Hamilton City Council 

Francis Ryan, Manager Democratic Services - Greater Wellington

Julie Straka, Governance Lead - New Plymouth District Council

Yvonne Tatton, Governance Manager - Bay of Plenty Regional Council

Electoral Subcommittee (ESUB)

DGS has an Electoral Subcommittee which provides advice on local body electoral matters to councils and electoral officers. ESUB meetings have representatives from the Ministry of Health, Department of Internal Affairs, Local Government New Zealand, the Electoral Commission, Local Government Commission, and New Zealand Post. 

Taituarã Electoral Subcommittee:


Dean Heiford, Manager Economic, Community & Support Services, Marlborough District Council


Mali Ahipene, Manager Democracy Services - Waikato Regional Council

Rick Dunn, Governance Lead - Rotorua District Council

Warwick Lampp, Electoral Officer -

Mark Low, Corporate Planning Manager - Timaru District Council

Sarah Nichols, Governance Manager and Deputy Electoral Officer - Waimakariri District Council

Dale Ofsoske, Electoral Officer - Election Services Ltd.

Clare Sullivan, Governance and Democracy Manager - Southland District Council

2019/20 Report from the Democracy and Governance Support Working Party Chair

David Ward, Chief Executive, Selwyn District Council

The year was one of winding up the first policy reform for online voting and restarting the process for the 2022 elections. My Deputy, Dean Heiford, will report separately on the work of our Electoral Subcommittee. I would like to make a few comments about some of the more strategic elements of our work programme over the past year.

We played a full part in Taituarã’s work on both the former and current government’s legislative and policy agenda. We played a major role in Taituarã’s submissions, including feeding into the Justice Committee Inquiry regarding the last central and local government elections.

During the year we also submitted on the council-controlled organisations (CCO) provisions in the Local Government Amendment No 2 Bill. In October, a webinar was held to discuss the implications of the Bill. We also provided feedback to the Office of the Auditor-General on the review of its annual report to Parliament and the guide to the Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act 1968 (referred to as LAMIA). Our members had a full work programme during the 2019/20 year and provided guidance on a number of governance matters.

Our other priority projects were:

  • to promote better participation in local decision making – delivered as a webinar in April 2020
  • to provide a single clear guide on the obligations for storage of meeting minutes and agendas – promoting the link to ALGIM guidance 2020
  • to provide an up to date, clear guide or set of LGOIMA charging protocols that have the support of the Ombudsman – we carried out a survey on charging and delivered webinars with Simpson Grierson on LGOIMA.

The COVID-19 pandemic halted several of the workstreams but some best practice advisories were developed on Reforming the Policy and Regulatory Environment. Several of these were also turned into webinars for the sector.

The 2019 Infocouncil – LG Hub Governance Professionals and Committee Advisors Forum was well attended and covered the latest issues facing local government, from co-governance to online voting.

Key speakers were Sam Broughton, Mayor of Selwyn District Council, and Janine Dowding, CEO of Tasman District Council, who inspired governance staff about how to impart the right level of knowledge, and the importance of careful communication for newcomers to these leadership roles. Other speakers included Dame Fran Wilde on elected members remuneration and Jonathan Salter, Simpson Grierson, on LAMIA and LGOIMA.

The Forum for July 2020 is being delivered digitally and will include a focus on the governance strategies and skills for supporting councils.

I would like to thank Deputy Chair Dean Heiford, Melissa Brook, Marguerite Delbet, Anusha Guler, Francis Ryan, Julie Straka, Yvonne Tatton and Natalie Palmer for their contributions in the last year.