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Frequently Asked Questions




Why review the Local Government Act?

Local government's responsibility is to meet the specific needs of its communities throughout New Zealand. The prescriptive nature of the current Act limits local government's effectiveness.


What will be the new proposed purpose of local government?

The current Act does not clearly express the purpose of local government and why we should have it. It is proposed that the purpose of local government be: to enable local decision-making by and on behalf of citizens in their local communities to promote their social, economic, cultural and environmental well-being in the present and for the future.

This purpose statement recognises that local government plays a key role in pursuing sustainable local development.


What is a power of general competence?

Much of the current Act reflects the view that everything local government does should be authorised in detail, in law.

In contrast, it is proposed that the new law provide local government with general powers that enable them to choose the activities they undertake and how they should undertake them subject to public consultation processes.

These powers will enable councils to deliver sustainable management for their communities, and provide them with greater flexibility to respond effectively to their communities' aspirations in the future.


Will this review allow for regional councils and territorial authorities to be treated differently?

It is proposed that the new powers to be given to councils will apply to both regional councils and territorial authorities.

It is recognised, however, that the regional focus of regional councils needs to be protected.

Therefore, if a regional council wishes to take on a new activity of regional scope, it will be required to consult with the affected territorial authorities and central government.

If the territorial authorities within that region carry out that activity already - their agreement will be required before the regional council could take on that activity.

If local discussions do not produce a satisfactory conclusion - the Minister of Local Government would be able to make a final decision after considering advice from the Local Government Commission.


How does this review tie in with the other reviews relating to local government?

This review is one component of three concurrent reviews of local government law.

The reform of the local electoral system has been completed with the enactment of the Local Electoral Act in May 2001.

The review of local authority funding powers is nearing completion. The Bill was introduced into Parliament on 8 August. It received its First Reading on 15 August and has been referred to the Local Government and Environment Committee with an instruction that the Committee report by 15 November 2001.

Decisions will be made late in 2001 on the final form of a new Local Government Act.

The Government is also looking at some functional responsibilities of local authorities. For example, it will make decisions on transport-related powers and a waste minimisation strategy this year.


Is this review just another way of devolving central government activities down to local government?

No. This review is about developing a local government system that is effective for all communities. It is about restoring 'localness' to local government and enhancing its ability to recognise and respond to community aspirations.

Have any decisions been made in relation to Maori/Treaty issues?

This review is about developing a local government system that is effective for all communities, including Maori. It highlights questions about the relationship of Maori and the Treaty of Waitangi to local government. Treaty issues have been the subject of much debate among Maori, the local government sector and the public.

The consultation document puts forward two proposals. The first relates to there being guidance (for example, through best practice guidelines) to assist in fostering relationships between the local government sector and Maori.

The second proposal is that councils and communities be encouraged to explore and develop collaborative approaches with Maori.

The Government has not taken any decisions on:
  • the relationship between Maori, the Treaty and local government, and the nature and extent of that relationship, or
  • enhancing Maori involvement in local government.

    What will the proposals mean for the community?

    The proposals will mean:
  • opportunities for communities to signal their desired outcomes
  • access to clearer information from councils, including 'plain English' summaries of key planning documents
  • enhanced opportunities for participation in decision-making.

    What's going to happen to rates?

    The proposed new Act will not itself alter rates. For the contents of the Local Government (Rating) Act
    click here.

    What will the proposals mean for local government?

    The proposals will mean:
  • The ability of local government to focus on a defined purpose "to promote the advancement of social, environmental, cultural and economic wellbeing of their communities in the present and for the future".
  • Greater flexibility to choose the activities they undertake, how they undertake them and how to respond effectively to their communities' aspirations.

    What will the proposals mean for councils and chief executives?

    The proposals will provide:
  • broader empowerment allowing greater flexibility
  • an obligation to provide more understandable information to the community about proposed and actual decisions.

    They will also be required to produce long term plans that include an integrated approach to service delivery, revenue and financing decisions, and to consult on them with their communities.
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    Last updated: 02/03/2005