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The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Resource material › Our Policy Advice Areas › Local Government Policy



DIA Policy Group provides policy advice to Ministers on: You can find out how the legislation came into being at Local Government Act Review (Historical - 2001) and see the Government's decision-making process at Local Government Act Cabinet Papers (Historical - 2001).

The DIA Policy Group works closely with other government departments that work with Local Government and provides all departments with strategic advice as required.

What is Local Government?

Few of the issues which government deal with are neatly contained within national boundaries. Some are global, a few are national, and many others are local. Either they affect only particular localities or they affect different localities differently, or the populations of different localities might legitimately have differing views on what ought to be done or how it should be done. All modern democracies divide the work of government between central government and some form of local, regional, or state government.

In New Zealand, there is central government and local government (involving both regional and territorial authorities).

Local Authorities

There are 78 local authorities representing all areas of New Zealand.
  • 11 Regional Councils
  • 12 City Councils (which are largely urban)
  • 54 District Councils
  • 1 Auckland Council (which amalgamated 8 former councils on 1 November 2010).
Auckland Council, as well as the city and district councils, are collectively referred to as "territorial authorities" - there are 67 in total.

Six of the territorial authorities, (including Auckland, 1 City and 4 District Councils), also have the powers of a regional council - these are sometimes referred to as “unitary authorities”.

New Zealand has more than 1,400 elected councillors and mayors, and nearly 23,000 local government employees.

For more information see: About Local Government (Local Councils website)

Department of Internal Affairs' Roles in Local Government

Secretary for Local Government

Section 2B of the Local Government Act 1974 provides that the person for the time being holding the office of Secretary for Internal Affairs shall be the Secretary for Local Government. The Seventeenth Schedule to the Act lists several Acts under which functions, powers and duties are conferred or imposed on the Minister of Local Government and the Secretary for Local Government.

Note: The Local Government Act 2002 was given royal assent on 24 December 2002. It repeals the Local Government Act 1974.

DIA Policy Group

Advice on local government is provided to the Minister of Local Government and other ministers by the Policy Group of the Department of Internal Affairs. The Policy Group:
  • provides policy advice on local government, including the framework of local government, to the Minister of Local Government and to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee on local Bills
  • administers Acts and Regulations on behalf of the Minister of Local Government.
The Department also carries out a variety of services and has operational responsibilities with regard to local government. The DIA Policy Group: Find out more about the Department's role in Local Government

Current Projects

Better Local Services

Better Local Services package enables innovation and collaboration in local government to deliver better local services and infrastructure.

Legislation to help Councils plan for future

On 3 November 2015 the Minister of Local Government released a
media statement to announce upcoming legislative change for the sector. This reflected a paper agreed by Cabinet on 27 October 2015. That paper is attached below. The paper contains some redacted text, which relates to financial matters under consideration.

Rules Reduction Taskforce report released (22/09/2015)

Response to the Productivity Commission’s report Towards Better Local Regulation

In May 2012, the Minister of Finance, the Minister for Regulatory Reform, and the Minister of Local Government requested that the Productivity Commission inquire into opportunities to improve regulatory performance in local government. This was to seek efficiency gains; address a lack of a consistency in what regulatory functions are best delivered nationally or locally; and respond to local government concern that councils are allocated functions without adequate mechanisms for funding. This work was commissioned as part of the
Better Local Government programme.

The Productivity Commission’s report, Towards Better Local Regulation, was released in May 2013.

The Minister of Local Government, Hon Paula Bennett, and the Minister of Finance and for Regulatory Reform, Hon Bill English, announced on 22 July 2014 the Government’s response to the Report. The Minister of Local Government also announced the formation of a taskforce to review regulatory requirements. View the public questions and answers document below:

Scoping of Online Voting for Local Authority Elections

Online voting for information about the government's scoping of online voting for local authority elections.

Appointment of Crown Manager for Christchurch City Council

In July 2013, Doug Martin was appointed as Crown Manager for the Christchurch City Council’s building consenting functions. The Council regained accreditation as a building consent authority in December 2014 and the Crown Manager’s appointment expired on 31 December 2014. Below is the Crown Managers’ final report, provided in March 2015, and the Crown Manager’s progress reports. These have been provided quarterly since the October 2013 report.
The Crown Manager also developed an action plan which is available on the Christchurch Council's website: (.pdf) 3MB

The appointment was made under the provisions of the Local Government Act. The Cabinet Paper and Cabinet Minute related to this appointment:

Amendments to the Local Electoral Act 2001 and Local Electoral Regulations 2001

The Local Electoral Amendment Act 2013 changed the Local Electoral Act 2001 and the Local Electoral Regulations to improve provisions for the conduct of local elections and strengthen the integrity, transparency and efficiency of local electoral processes.

The changes provide greater transparency and accountability in local elections. The changes limit the size of anonymous donations that a recipient can keep, revise the definition of an anonymous donation, increase disclosure, reporting and recording obligations and introduce penalties for non-compliance.

The changes also cover the setting of ward boundaries, the information provided by candidates for local authority positions, the rules governing candidate nomination documentation, information about voting documents provided to electors and changes to streamline vote processing.
Cabinet Paper - Amending the donation provisions In the Local Electoral Act 2001:
(released November 2012) A copy of the Regulatory Impact Statement for the Local Electoral Amendment Bill No2 and the earlier Local Electoral Amendment Bill from 2011 can be found here: Local Electoral Amendment Bill - Regulatory Impact Statements

See Minister's media releases (Beehive website): Proposed changes to local electoral law (12/9/2012); Local electoral law bill passes first reading (7/11/2012); Local Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2) passes second reading (21 March 2013); Changes to Local Electoral Bill to further improve transparency (27 March 2013).
For more information on local elections please visit the Local Elections page.

Local Government Mandatory Performance Measures

In 2010, the Local Government Act 2002 was amended to require the Secretary for Local Government to make rules specifying non financial performance measures for local authorities to use when reporting to their communities. The aim was to help the public to contribute to discussions on future levels of service for their communities and to participate more easily in their local authority’s decision-making processes.

The performance measures will do this through providing better information about the levels of service for five groups of activities carried out by local authorities – stormwater drainage, sewerage and the disposal of sewage, flood protection and control works, water supply, and the provision of footpaths and roads. Local authorities will be required to use a standard set of performance measures for these five activities when reporting to their communities.

The Non-Financial Performance Measures Rules 2013

Following public consultation the rules were finalised. They come into force on 30 July 2014. Local authorities will be required to incorporate the performance measures in the development of their new 2015-2025 long-term plans. The performance measures will therefore be reported against for the first time in the 2015/2016 annual reports. Other local government organisations that provide one, or more, of the groups of activities must also include the relevant performance measures in their statements of intent.

Material incorporated by reference in the Non-Financial Performance Measures Rules 2013

The Rules also include the following material incorporated by reference:

Guidance for the implementation of the Local Government Mandatory Performance Measures

The following guidance is available to help local authorities report on the measures.

The guidance provides an initial focus for local authorities’ reporting, and is intended to provide the basis for local authorities to then add their own commentary.

The measures are not intended to provide a means for central government to prescribe service standards for local authorities, but instead are intended to ensure that members of the public can compare the level of service provided by different councils. Therefore, although they require local authorities to measure particular things, they do not include any specified targets for local authority performance.

It is for each local authority, in consultation with its ratepayers, to determine the level of service it intends to provide. The worked examples in the guidance are examples and local authorities are not required to report in this exact manner.

Flood Control and Protection

Roads and Footpaths




Additional guidance has been developed for determining non-revenue water quantity for non-universally metered networks. The development of this guidance was led by the Institute of Public Works Engineers Australasia with the input of other industry experts and local authorities. This aspect of this guidance was developed separately after the importance of a robust measurement methodology for measuring water loss from a network was noted. This guidance is attached below.

Public consultation on draft performance measures

The Department of Internal Affairs developed a set of draft measures with input from the local government sector and expert groups and undertook a public consultation on the draft performance measures earlier this year. Summaries of the submissions received can be found below.

Environment Canterbury Review

Government has announced a mixed-model governance structure for Environment Canterbury (ECan) after the local government elections in October 2016. The mixed-model governance structure will have a mix of seven community elected councillors, and up to six Government-appointed councillors.

Better Local Government

  • Better Local Government

    This is a local government programme which began in March 2012.

    The reforms are aimed at providing better clarity around the role of councils, stronger governance, improved efficiency and more responsible financial management.

Other current legislative and policy projects include:

  • Kaipara District Council
    A review of Kaipara District Council’s performance by the government-appointed Kaipara Review Team in 2012 led to the Council requesting commissioners take over governance of the district. Appointing commissioners under the Local Government Act was also the review team’s central recommendation. The Minister of Local Government David Carter appointed commissioners in August 2012. View 2012 media release: Kaipara council commissioners appointed (Beehive website) and read the notice of appointment and Terms of Reference (Gazette website).

    On 24 April 2015 Associate Minister of Local Government Louise Upston announced that the Commissioners appointed to the Kaipara District Council in 2012 will be reappointed for a further year. The Council will now have an election in October 2016, the same as with triennial general elections for all local authorities. See Minister’s 2015 media release
    Kaipara District Council Commissioners Re-Appointed (Beehive website)
  • Public safety around dogs
    The Department’s policy team provides advice about dog control and dog legislation to Ministers. Dog control legislation is enforced by local councils. The legislation gives Councils powers to respond to complaints and to enforce owner responsibilities and for the care and control of their dog(s).

    The Department has a public education programme for dog owners, parents and children. The programme includes a website and resources for schools:
  • Treaty of Waitangi Settlement Negotiations
    The Department assists the Office of Treaty Settlements in their work when it affects local government.

Ongoing Projects

Other legislative and policy projects we are working on include:

Local Government Transparency, Accountability and Fiscal Management

For backround information about the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill, including a Decisions Document and related Cabinet papers, see:

Local Government accords between the Minister of Local Government and Iwi

On 19 December 2009, the Crown signed a Deed of Settlement with Waikato-Tainui to settle its historical Treaty of Waitangi claims relating to the Waikato River. The overarching purpose of the settlement is to restore and protect the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River for future generations.

As part of the settlement, on 18 June 2010, Waikato-Tainui and the Associate Minister of Local Government signed a Local Government Accord in relation to the Waikato River. The Local Government Accord sets out how Waikato-Tainui and the Minister of Local Government will establish and maintain a positive, co-operative and enduring relationship regarding local government matters that directly impact the healthy and wellbeing of the Waikato River. For further details of the Local Government Accord, please contact the Department of Internal Affairs on (04) 495 7200.

A copy of the Waikato River Deed of Settlement signed between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui is on the website of the Office of Treaty Settlements

Auckland Governance

On 1 November 2010 the Auckland Council replaced the Auckland Regional Council, Auckland City Council, Manukau City Council, North Shore City Council, Papakura District Council, Rodney District Council, Waitakere City Council and Franklin District Council as the unitary authority for the Auckland District.

On 29 March 2012 the Auckland Spatial Plan was adopted by Auckland Council. This sets out the strategy for Auckland's development over the next thirty years. It is viewed by Government as a key way to develop an integrated approach to managing Auckland’s growth, meeting central government objectives and avoiding duplication of effort across local and central government. Government agencies continue to work with Auckland Council as the Auckland Spatial Plan moves into implementation. The plan can be found here:
Background infromation to the Auckland governance reforms can be found here:
  • Monitoring and evaluating the Auckland governance reforms
    The following two reports provide a framework for stakeholders to undertake ongoing evaluation and monitoring of the Auckland governance reform process and its outcomes. They were developed by the Department of Internal Affairs and Martin, Jenkins and Associates in 2010.

Further Information

More information about the Local Government portfolio and its issues: