Local Government New Zealand
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Local Government New Zealand is the Local Government Association of New Zealand. The Association was formed in 1988 when, confronted with pending local government reform, the Municipal Association and the Counties Association agreed to merge into a single local government association. Two years later, in 1990, the New Zealand Regional Government Association (representing the nation's regional councils) agreed to join. In 1996 the amalgamated association adopted the brand name Local Government New Zealand.
Local Government New Zealand is an incorporated society. Membership is voluntary and open to all territorial local authorities (cities and districts) and regional councils. All 78 local authorities are currently members. Policy and strategic direction is set by the National Council, a body elected by local authorities through a series of electoral colleges to ensure it is representative of the different types of councils as well as having representation from both North and South Islands. There are six geographical zones, which elect representatives to the National Council and meet regularly, as well as four sector groups, metropolitan, provincial, rural and regional, which also elect members to the National Council and meet regularly to discuss and provide feedback on policy issues.
The National Council consists of 15 mayors, senior councillors and regional council chairs, including a directly elected president. Members serve a term of three years and elections are held immediately after the triennial local authority elections. It conducts its policy work through a number of established committees; an economic development committee; a community issues committee; an environmental committee and an infrastructure and transport committee. It also receives advice from a Maori Advisory Committee, Te Maruata (consisting of Maori elected members) and the Community Board Executive Committee (representing community boards, sub-municipal elected bodies found in just over half the cities and districts). The National Council employs a chief executive who operates a secretariat which advises the National Council; prepares submissions on relevant legislation and regulations; promotes good practice; leads strategic communication and provides a professional development programme for elected members. Funding is primarily drawn from annual subscriptions.
Local Government New Zealand has a single office located in the capital, Wellington. Its primary objective is to represent and advocate for the interests of local authorities in New Zealand. To be effective, the organisation must build meaningful relationships with the government of the day. Since the beginning of 2010, regular Central Government Local Government Forums have been held. These are half day meetings between the National Council of Local Government New Zealand and relevant members of Cabinet. Scheduled for a half day once a year, the fora are jointly chaired by the Prime Minister and the president of Local Government New Zealand. Agendas tend to deal with current issues of joint concern and future directions, and are designed to encourage dialogue between the two sectors. .
In its policy work the key messages promoted by Local Government New Zealand are:
- Local autonomy: councils should have sufficient autonomy to respond to community needs and preferences.
- Local difference: One size does not fit all. New Zealand is a diverse country with differing local and regional needs, priorities and values, consequently as many decisions as efficiently possible should be made at the sub-national level.
- Local regulations: more recognition needs to be given by governments to the cumulative impacts of regulation, especially the fiscal cost of implementation on councils and their citizens. This can be achieved by involving local government more directly when regulations are in the development phase.
- Local funding: the current range of funding options for local government is too restricted and councils need additional funding tools.
- Local infrastructure: local government's role as the provider of local and regional infrastructure needs to be given greater recognition and acknowledgement when national infrastructural planning is undertaken.
- Local democracy: local government provides citizens and groups of citizens with choices over the ways their different needs are met and is accountable to these citizens through open and transparent processes.
- Local partnerships: local government has the potential to break down government silos and facilitate a more seamless, place based and whole of government response to pressing local and regional issues.