The Sector Policy and Outlook Working Party (SPO) identifies policy issues and trends with the potential to impact on local authorities and/or communities now and in the medium to long-term future, and advises the sector on these issues and trends. The intent is that SPO will act as the sector's thinktank.


  • Monitor developments in the environment (both internal and external to the sector) which affect local authorities,  and provide the Chief Executive with timely identification of these developments.
  • Monitor international literature (journals, websites, blogs) for issues or thinking that is relevant to New Zealand local authorities.
  • Consider the implications of anything identified during the monitoring of activities listed above, for the sector both now, and in the medium term and long term.
  • Present SPO's thinking to the sector in an appropriate manner.
  • Make recommendations of items to include in Taituarã's programme of good.
  • Practice and capability building initiatives.
  • Build relationships with those stakeholders with interests in, or the ability to influence local government's operating environment.

View/download the Sector Policy and Outlook Working Party Terms of Reference.pdf

Current Members


Geoff Williams, Chief Executive - Rotorua Lakes Council

Deputy Chair:

Ross McNeil, Chief Executive - Rangitikei District Council


Blair Bowcott, Executive Director - Special Projects - Hamilton City Council

Rex Capil, Group Manager Community and Futures - Southland District Council.

Denise O'Shaughnessy, Manager Strategic Advice - Auckland Council.

Gillian (Gill) Payne, Strategic Advisor - Western Bay of Plenty District Council

Kathryn Ross, General Manager-Strategic Planning and Policy - Far North District Council.

Urlwyn Trebilco, Principal Strategic Advisor, Strategy - Waikato Regional Council.

2019/20 Report from Sector Policy and Outlook Working Party Chair

Geoff Williams, Chief Executive, Rotorua Lakes Council

It’s fair to say that this year has seen the Sector Policy and Outlook Working Party (SPO) focus more on the policy side of our brief than the ‘outlook’ side. Of course, this has been of necessity, as considering the flood of legislation and other policy proposals either side of Christmas has almost been a full-time occupation in itself.

Our major piece of outlook-focussed work for the year has been the release of the Navigating Critical 21st Century Transitions report at the Well-being Leadership Forum in February. We commissioned and worked with Dr Stephanie Pride of StratEDGY, one of New Zealand’s leading futures thinkers to identify five transitions that New Zealand will have to make for life in the 21st Century. These are:

  • transition to low emissions living
  • transition to living in a disrupted climate
  • transition to a low waste society
  • transition to community interconnectedness
  • transition to learning-empowered communities.

These will form the basis of our future work programme. It was perhaps good fortune that we were working with Dr Pride on this report as the same time we were developing our submission on the Climate Change Commission Bill.

One of the core planks in our last Briefing to the Incoming Minister was that central and local government are partners in promoting the well-being of the nation. Other working party chairs discuss Taituarã’s well-being initiative and our involvement in the local governance and community well-being project being led out of the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). Central government has also been reorganising the way it thinks about well-being, and how it’s organised both centrally and in the regions, to deliver on well-being. We submitted on two innocuous sounding Bills – the Public Finance (Well-being) Amendment Bill and the Public Service Legislation Bill. In both instances we said these Bills could create stronger links between central and local government.

We’ve kept a close eye on the reform of the three waters sector this year. Taituarã’s submission on Taumata Arowai – the Water Services Regulator Bill was led by this working party. Much of this Bill is mechanical. Our major concern with the content was the limited statutory provision for knowledge of water services provision or the perspectives of these operators at either governance or technical level. As the year ended, talk was turning back to structural reforms and how central and local government might work together on these.

Towards the end of the financial year we were also giving thought to Taituarã’s Briefing to the Incoming Minister. The last, with its emphasis on well-being and partnerships, proved somewhat prescient. We welcome suggestions and comments on matters that should be included in the Briefing.

As always, we are dependent on the contributions of volunteers, so I thank Ross McNeil, Kathryn Ross, Denise O’Shaughnessy, Rex Capil, Brandy Griffin, Cameron McIntosh, Gillian Payne and Stephen Lamb.