Institute for Governance and Policy Studies



About the Local Governance National Dialogue

Local governance is of ever increasing importance to the democratic well-being of New Zealand. Emerging trends in New Zealand’s public policy environment, coupled with an increasing differentiation in the impact on New Zealand communities of influences such as demographic change, globalisation, and the growth of metropolitan centres mean that it is timely to have a fresh look at how New Zealand’s communities are governed, what trends are shaping the environment for local governance, and how best to enable ‘fit for purpose’ local governance over the next 10, 20, 30 years. IGPS acknowledges that the need for such a fresh look is already emerging in elements of central government policy development including the social sector trials and on-going work on how government agencies can best work with the communities they serve.


Against that background it is extremely timely to reflect on what the governance needs of New Zealand’s communities and how those are best met. The purpose of this dialogue is to showcase the significance of local governance including the importance of the ‘local’ recognising not just the different conditions of different communities, but the different preferences of the people who choose to live in them.


The dialogue will bring together expert researchers, practitioners and stakeholders from central government to the private sector, civil society and tangata whenua through research informed discussion papers and a series of regional discussions to consider what type of local governance will best meet the needs of New Zealand’s many different communities over the next 10, 20, 30 years. The dialogue will take place in six regional centres across New Zealand. At its conclusion, the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies (IGPS) will bring the discussion papers and findings from the National dialogue together in a publication designed to help shape public and governmental understandings of the place of local government in New Zealand’s future.


The dialogue process will operate in collaboration with a series of regional site hosts each of which will work with IGPS in developing a regional dialogue designed to focus on priorities for their own area. This will include feedback on discussion papers so that final versions reflect regional as well as national issues, and a one-day workshop in each region to take place over the July/August period to pull together regional views.


This will be complemented by the establishment of a Facebook discussion group, and an open invitation for people interested in the dialogue process to pass their views directly to IGPS (for more information see the ‘get involved’ section of this website.

Regional site hosts are the Auckland Council for Auckland, the Eastland Community Trust in collaboration with the Gisborne District Council for Tairawhiti, the New Plymouth District Council for Taranaki, the Wellington City Council for the Wellington region, Christchurch City Council for Canterbury and others.


The themes of the various discussion papers and the experts/practitioners who have agreed to provide them are:


  1. An overview chapter jointly authored by Michael Macaulay, the director of IGPS, and Peter McKinlay as Research Associate with IGPS, setting the context which will include drawing significantly on international experience and thinking about the way in which governance arrangements are evolving including changing perceptions of what citizens expect of government at different levels, and the constraints which governments face (including fiscal austerity and what looks like declining public acceptance of the welfare state model as an effective means for addressing the problems it targets).

  2. What factors are shaping the social and economic environments for New Zealand’s communities? This will be context setting ranging from globalisation to demographic change to technology and more. Gary Hawke, who has been leading the Royal Society’s ‘our futures’ work, has agreed to contribute this paper.

  3. The impact of demographic change, and its political implications. This paper will be co-authored by demographer Natalie Jackson and political commentator Colin James.

  4. A chapter discussing central government policy which may impact on aspects of community governance, including Treasury's Higher Living Standards framework, and other initiatives where one option is for central agencies to work directly with communities rather than through local government.

  5. Subsidiarity or how to determine the level at which given local authority activity should be undertaken (this would actually extend to public sector activity generally). Graham Sansom who is adjunct Prof with the Centre for Local Government at the University of Technology in Sydney, and who chaired the NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel has agreed to prepare this discussion paper. As well as his Australian insights, he will bring to it considerable experience working internationally with local government, and as a long-standing member of the Research Advisory Group of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.

  6. Does local government have the right mix of activities? This will follow on naturally from Graham Sansom’s paper but also focus on a lot of the nitty-gritty which councils confront on a day-to-day basis. Mike Reid, principal policy adviser for Local Government New Zealand, has been invited to contribute this discussion paper.

  7. What form of governance, and the relationships between different governance spheres. This will go to the heart of the community governance debate, including the role of different participants in governance. This is likely to be a co-authored paper drawing on Peter McKinlay’s extensive work internationally on community and neighbourhood governance, Graham Sansom’s insights especially from his NSW work, and Mike Reid’s long-standing involvement with governance within the New Zealand local government sector, including community boards and other expressions of sub-Council governance.

  8. Is it time to reassess the central government role in regulating and monitoring local government? This chapter will be offered by Michael Macaulay drawing on his specialist interest in public integrity and ethics which has included chairing the European Group of Public Administration’s permanent study group on integrity and quality of governance.

  9. Fit for purpose governance which will cover the four items of; the balance between efficiency and local democratic accountability; the respective roles of elected members and management; how the views of the ‘owners’ should be reflected in local government decision-making; whether there is a need to mitigate the impact of the monopoly position of individual councils as the provider of local government services within their district. This paper will be written by Peter McKinlay drawing on his extensive work on governance and organisational design in local government, both within New Zealand and internationally.

  10. Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Preparation of this discussion paper will be challenging as among other things it will need to recognise the interests and circumstances of different iwi and hapu. IGPS is consulting with Te Kawa a Māui, Victoria University’s School of Māori Studies on possible options.

  11. Conclusions. This will not be prepared as a discussion paper - the conclusions will flow out of the National dialogue itself and so cannot be written in advance. For the publication, this chapter will be co-authored by Michael Macaulay and Peter McKinlay drawing together the different themes, recommendations etc which have emerged through the previous chapters themselves and the National Dialogue.

IGPS will take a flexible approach to how this evolves, and so be open to the possibility of additional chapter themes/authors as the dialogue unfolds. There are also other possibilities which could be incorporated, for example a chapter or two on international practice with community governance and local democracy. There are a number of people within IGPS’ international networks who would be able to make a very valuable contribution reflecting experience of local democracy in jurisdictions with which they are familiar.


IGPS will also consider whether it would be useful to incorporate one or more chapters in the publication itself on the nature of reform in other jurisdictions, for example, English local government or current reform initiatives in Australian local government.




Please email us to join the discussion group. Your email should include your name and organisation and your interests in local governance.

You will be invited to join the discussion on a private Facebook page