Local Government Reform

22 May 2012

Wellington City has come a long way since the last local government reforms in 1989. It's now recognised as the events and cultural capital of New Zealand.

Choose between four options for local government reform

Choose between four options for local government reform

To prosper in the 21st century, a city has to successfully attract talent and investment in a globally competitive environment.

Over the next few weeks, Wellington City Council wants to hear from you about how you'd like your city and region to be governed.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says this is an important issue with implications for all Wellingtonians in years to come. "The city's residents should have a genuine say in the future of the city and region - and they must be part of the decision-making process from the start."

Mayor Wade-Brown says it is not Wellington City Council's role to tell other parts of the region how they should be governed.

However, any changes to Wellington City - such as merging with our neighbouring councils to form a bigger local authority - will inevitably have an effect on local government in the rest of the region, so our options describe how changes might affect all councils in the region.

We'd like to get your views by Friday 29 June.

How things work

There are nine councils in the Wellington region - eight territorial local authorities (including Wellington City Council) and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The Wellington region is nearly twice the area of the new Auckland Council.

The eight local councils range in size from Carterton District - with one of the largest geographical areas and the smallest population (7,600 people) - through to Wellington City with just over 200,000 residents.

Wellington City is the third largest local authority in New Zealand after Auckland, which has nearly 1.5 million residents, and Christchurch, with around 367,000 residents.

Hutt City is the seventh-largest local authority with 103,000 residents.

A number of councils have community boards to advocate on behalf of their local communities.

As well as looking to the future and positioning their communities for a prosperous future, local councils are responsible for services that include:

  • recreational facilities such as parks, swimming pools and libraries
  • visitor attractions such as museums and galleries
  • rubbish collection
  • water (waste water, fresh water and storm water)
  • maintaining  roads
  • parking enforcement
  • planning and consenting (eg District Plan rules for what can be built and where, and issuing resource and building consents).

Most councils also regulate and control dogs and other animals, liquor licences and food premises. Wellington City Council also funds or provides events, tourism promotion and economic development initiatives.

The Regional Council provides services that extend across local boundaries - it manages:

  • bulk water supply for the four cities
  • funds and manages regional public transport, regional parks and reserves
  • controls pests and plants
  • builds and maintains flood protection works.

These lists are not exhaustive - they are intended to give you a sense of what a local council does compared with a regional council.

There are also shared services. In Wellington for example, economic development is funded by the Regional Council and managed in partnership with local councils.

Hutt, Upper Hutt and Wellington City councils all use a council-owned company called Capacity to manage their water networks.

The councils' emergency management responsibilities have been brought together.

Why is the debate happening?

The last time any major changes were made to the structure of local government across New Zealand was in 1989.

However in the last couple of years, we have seen the advent of the Auckland 'super city'.

A number of councils, including the Auckland Regional Council, were merged to form a single Auckland Council representing around 1.5 million people. Some 21 local boards were also set up to oversee local services.

This year, the Government has proposed a series of local-government reforms. This is a response to the tough global economic environment and, consequently, a drive for the public sector to provide better services while keeping costs down.

The Government says these aims may in part be achieved through the amalgamation of councils.

One of the Government's proposals would remove the automatic right of the public to have a poll on whether or not local body amalgamation should proceed.

Instead, 10 percent or more of voters in any affected area would have to sign a petition asking for a poll.

The Government has also signalled that the Local Government Commission should prefer proposals that lead to efficiencies - which may favour proposals for fewer councils or 'layers of bureaucracy'.

This is likely to favour the abolition of regional councils and allocating their responsibilities to local councils, which would become unitary authorities.

The Government aims to legislate for these changes by the end of 2012 - allowing time for any new arrangements to be in place for the October 2013 local body elections.

How to make your submission:

For more information and to have your say, see:

Public Input - Local Government Reform Options

Submissions close at  5.00pm, Friday 29 June.