An independent review of local government has been announced - this is one of the most significant developments the sector has seen in decades. It will explore how councils can maintain and improve the well-being of New Zealanders in the communities they serve, long into the future.

The Minister of Local Government announced the creation of a Ministerial review into the future for local government. You can also watch the announcement on RNZ here.

Taituarā — Local Government Professionals Aotearoa welcomes this announcement. We are specifically named in several places in the the TOR (alongside LGNZ) and will work constructively and collaboratively with the Review Panel, and with the Government once the Review Panel has reported.

The context

Jo Miller, Chief Executive of Hutt City Council and a member of the Taituarā Board spoke following the briefing adding further context to the announcement. Jo's speech follows.

Kei aku nui, kei aku rahi, kua hui mai nei ki raro i te mana o te whare e tū nei, tēnā koutou katoa

I would like to acknowledge the Minister of Local Government Hon Nanaia Mahuta, the Iwi and Mana Whenua, leaders of local government, LGNZ, Taituarā, panel members, Dowse staff and distinguished guests.

I’m responding to you today as Hutt City Te Awakairangi CEO and also as the Wellington Regional Representative on the Taituarā Board, so I hope I can speak on behalf of my fellow chief executives whom I acknowledge here today.

Globally, nationally and locally we face era-scale change, on a par with the Industrial Revolution. We need to move to different energy sources, to take much greater care of how we use land and natural resources. We need to reduce our waste and protect the environment that sustains us, whilst also facing the automation of all routine work. This means that everything will need to be done differently - where and how people live, how and where work happens, how people travel, how food is supplied, how learning happens.

Whilst this is a global challenge requiring international action, and a national challenge requiring central government to create national /local incentives, the powers and funding to support urgently needed change, above all it is a community challenge. Community by community, how and where we live, work, learn and connect is where impacts will hit home and “doing differently” will actually take place. Local government has a pivotal role to play in enabling our people to make these 21st century transitions in a way that protects and enhances wellbeing and reduces inequity.

We must be deliberate about putting equity at the forefront of the changes we go through. Because we need to make change on every front, we have the opportunity and responsibility to build pathways that create new futures for our community. To do that we need new systems which are grounded in concepts such as 'ora' meaning that they are inherently designed to enhance well-being for all!

Our biggest challenge is inequity, but to beat it we must focus on ‘ora’.

Of course we can do much of that now, in setting priorities, in our policy choices, our purchasing decisions and our choice of partners, and in unleashing the inherent power and strength of communities. But we can and must do more.

Twenty years from now we need to have changed the dial for the children born today at our local hospital here in Te Awa Kairangi. And here’s what we know today about those children.

We know a child living in a decile ten area is three times more likely to die in childhood/adolescence than a child in a decile one area. The same child is three times more likely to go hungry than the other, and five times more likely to not be able to access primary health care simply due to lack of transport.

We know NCEA pass rates at all levels for children at one school in our city are almost twice the rate of another. We know that in some of our areas, almost half of our whānau are experiencing housing stress - having to choose between paying the rent, paying for heat, and feeding their families. We know that in our city that needs 10,000 new homes in the next 20 years, right now 800 families are on the housing register, over 900 emergency housing special needs grants and we have too many of our children living in emergency motel accommodation. I don’t need to tell you how that breaks down along ethnic lines, suffice to say that systemic disadvantage is baked in to how we currently do things. And that’s what we need to change - an opportunity this review presents.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always had.

No one government department, no single local government can shift the dial on housing, health, education, to change these outcomes. We must push the change to our system by unleashing the inherent power within every corner of our community and ensure that the system reflects us and therefore serves us – all of us.

We can change the dial! Through meaningful partnerships, whether that is forming co-governance relationships with iwi, or strategic alliances with the voluntary sector, NGOs and key commercial partners. As local government we must meet our partners where they are at and rise to the occasion as one public sector enabled by the appropriate powers and funding tools necessary to change that dial.

We are making a good start on some of these issues here - in our new partnership with Te Āti Awa and Kahungungu Whānau Services to ensure more safe, dry warm homes for our whānau and building pathways to housing permanency - a home for life. In our partnership with Common Unity to improve food security. In our partnership with our Chamber of Commerce to enable young people into apprenticeships and jobs. In our new commercial arrangements with partners in parks management and waste management that are paying the living wage, reducing our carbon footprint and emissions, reducing waste and extending their life of our landfill.

Partnerships like this will be happening throughout Aotearoa. We all know there is scope to do more and better, to be more joined up at a local level, to listen and enable community participation. Let’s seize the chance this review brings to define our new future that so that all of our places and all of our people thrive.

Mā tini, mā mano ka rapa te whai.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa

The Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference (TOR) for the review are available here.

The overall purpose of the review is to “identify how our system of local democracy needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the well-being of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody the treaty partnership.”

This makes it a complete review of the system of local government, including the following:

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

It is the first such review for approximately 20 years. In some respects, it is wider in scope than the review that rewrote the system legislation in 2001 and 2002 (giving us the Local Government Act, Local Electoral Act and Rating Act of today). That review introduced well-being into the purpose of local government, but gave little attention to the specific functions of local government (providing the greater empowerment of section 12). Representation issues were largely untouched – for example, it’s only this year that explicit consideration of Māori representation has taken place.

The Cabinet Paper acknowledges the cumulative impact of the ongoing water reform process that will see the establishment of new water services entities and the transferring of service delivery responsibilities, and the upcoming resource management reform processes.

The Government is seeking the following key outcomes:

  • a resilient and sustainable local government system that is fit for purpose and has the flexibility and incentives to adapt to the future needs of local communities
  • public trust/confidence in local authorities and the local regulatory system that leads to strong leadership
  • effective partnerships between mana whenua, and central and local government in order to better provide for the social, environmental, cultural, and economic well-being of communities
  • a local government system that actively embodies the Treaty partnership, through the role and representation of iwi/Māori in local government, and seeks to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its principles through its functions and processes.

Taituarā considers the Review provides a positive means of better joining up the conversations currently going on across government. The true transformational opportunities lie, for example, in using the so-called spatial plans as a vehicle for implementing a set of priorities and investments agreed by central government and local authorities (on behalf of local communities) rather than yet another plan.

The TOR acknowledges the role that the local government sector plays in placemaking and community well-being. The review is an opportunity for central and local government to identify how they can work better together to promote well-being (just as we argued in our Briefing to the Incoming Minister Managing for Community Well-being).

A genuine application of principles well articulated by agencies, such as the Productivity Commission, is bound to identify opportunities for local government to better influence the design of services and other investment into the community. Programmes such as The Southern Initiative, Rotorua-Lakes Childhood Equity Programme and (more recently) the Hastings Place Based Housing Plan give ample examples of local leadership on issues previously deemed as ‘for the round building to solve’. This is not a purely transactional conversation.

And last by no means least, the Review has been asked to consider the future funding and financing of the sector. This includes specific reference to the Productivity Commission’s report on Funding and Financing.


The Review Panel includes a wide variety of members with a background in local government. The members are:

  • Jim Palmer (Chair), former Chief Executive Waimakariri District Council and former Chair of the Taituarā Business Performance Working Party and current Independent Chair of the Greater Christchurch Partnership
  • Penny Hulse, former Deputy Mayor and Councillor, Auckland Council (and former member of the LGNZ National Council)
  • Gael Surgenor, General Manager Community and Social Innovation, The Southern Initiative
  • John Ombler, former Deputy State Services Commissioner
  • Antoine Coffin, Te Onewa Consultants, Freshwater Commissioner, Specialist Māori Resource Management.


The following are the key steps in the review:

  • 30 September 2021 - an interim report presented to the Minister signalling the probable direction of the review and key next steps
  • 30 September 2022 - draft report and recommendations to be issued for public consultation and
  • 30 April 2023 - Review Panel presents final report to the Minister and Local Government New Zealand.

Taituarā will be engaging with the Review Panel proactively and will shortly produce a statement that will serve as its guiding principles for the review.

If you have questions about this please contact Karen Thomas, Chief Executive of Taituarā or Raymond Horan, our Chief Advisor.