All about Local Government
Local government is how communities make democratic decisions about how their towns, cities and regions work and how they develop in the future. It refers to the activities of organisations known as local authorities – city, regional and district councils, as well as community and local boards.
While Parliament is elected to deal with issues relevant to the whole of Aotearoa New Zealand, local government enables democratic decision-making by and for, local communities.
There are 78 local, regional and unitary councils (also referred to as local authorities).
- 11 regional councils;
– six regional councils will have Māori constituencies in the 2022 local elections.
- 61 territorial authorities which are: 11 city councils and 50 district councils; and
– 29 territorial councils will have Māori wards in the 2022 local elections.
- Six unitary councils which are territorial authorities with regional council responsibilities.
The role of local government: who does what?
City, district and regional councils play a broad range of roles taking responsibility for the social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being of their communities.
This includes from making sure water flows freely from your taps, managing building permits and resource consents, providing car parks so you can borrow books from the library, beautifying the area with parks and green spaces, collecting your rubbish and recycling, keeping your streets well-lit with safe footpaths, to encouraging a thriving arts and culture scene supporting festivals, events and parades.
City and district councils have the widest range of responsibilities, which include:
- infrastructure services, such as the ‘three waters’ – waste water, storm water and drinking water and local roads
- town planning and resource management
- local regulatory services, such as building consenting, dog control and liquor licensing
- developing and maintaining parks, recreation and cultural facilities, libraries, art galleries, museums and cemeteries
- civil defence and emergency management
- economic development and tourism promotion
- supporting and promoting the arts and distinct cultures of the rohe
Regional councils play a core role in the management of the natural resources of an area.
- biosecurity control (including pest control and harmful plants)
- resource management (quality of water, soil, coastal planning) including flood and river management
- public transport
- civil defence (natural disasters, marine oil spills)
- regional transport planning and passenger transport services
Functions may vary from place to place as responsibilities can be transferred between territorial and regional councils, and many councils have established joint service delivery arrangements
Community and local boards
Many city and district councils also have community boards to support council decision making. They exist to bring decision-making closer to citizens themselves.
Local boards are like community boards but have a larger range of functions and decision-making powers than most community boards. Currently only Auckland Council has local boards.
- Download a copy of our Guide to Local Government for more information of how local government works.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi
Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document and is one source of our constitution. The document lays the foundations and obligations for an ongoing and sustainable partnership between Māori and the Crown.
Various courts have recognised the principles of Te Tiriti as including: rangatiratanga (chieftainship), reciprocity, partnership, active protection options, mutual benefit the right of development and redress.
Local government must promote opportunities for Māori and tauiwi (other members of the public) to contribute to its decision-making processes.
There are provisions in the Local Government Act 2002 (the Act) that relate specifically to Māori. Parts 2 and 6 of the Act provide principles and requirements for councils that intend to maintain and improve opportunities for Māori to contribute to local government decision-making processes.