What does local government do

What is local government?
Local government and local authority(ies) are terms used to describe any or all of New Zealand’s regional, district, city or unitary councils. While central government is concerned with the broader issues of importance to all New Zealanders, local government manages the issues that are specific to local communities. There are 78 councils in New Zealand. There are: 11 Regional Councils, 12 City Councils, 54 District Councils, and Auckland Council (a unitary authority).

Regional Councils
The main responsibility of a regional council is to manage environmental, resource and transport planning issues for the whole region. A region may include a number of territorial authorities. A regional council manages:

  • the sustainable use of land, air and water
  • rivers, flood control and mitigation of soil erosion
  • animal and plan pest control
  • land transport planning and contracting passenger services
  • harbour navigation, safe boating, managing oil spills and other issues related to marine pollution.
  • Territorial authorises (city and district councils)
    There are two types of territorial authorities, City councils represent a population of more than 50,000 that is predominantly urban-based, District councils have a smaller and more widely dispersed population. Territorial authorities typically manage the following services for their communities:

  • Water supply
  • roading and public transport services
  • sold waste collection and disposal
  • the avoidance or mitigation of natural hazards
  • regulator services (e.g. dog control, liquor licensing)
  • libraries, museums, reserves, recreational facilities and other community infrastructure.
  • Unitary authorities
    A unitary authority is a territorial authority that also has the powers and responsibilities of a regional council. There are six unitary authorities in New Zealand, these are:

  • Auckland Council
  • Gisborne District Council
  • Chatham Islands Council
  • Marlborough District Council
  • Nelson City Council
  • Tasman District Council
  • How are councils formed and governed?
  • Councils are governed by elected members. Councillors and mayors are elected to make decisions and represent the needs and interests of their community.
  • The voting population within each council area elects councillors for their territorial authority and regional council. In territorial authorities, a mayor is directly elected by the community to lead the council. In regional councils, the leader of the council is the Chair. The Chair is an elected member who is selected by the councillors.
  • The situation is Auckland is slightly different. Auckland has a governing body of 21 members that are responsible for the overall direction of the council. This body shares its governance responsibilities with an additional 21 local boards hat represent the interests of smaller local areas within the greater Auckland region.
  • Council operations are managed by a chief executive, appointed by the elected members for a five year term, Staff carry out the day-to-day work of a council under the chief executive’s direction.
  • Community Boards

    Many territorial authorities have community boards. These help represent community views and provide advice to the council. Community board members are elected at the same time as councillors. The powers of a community board are given to it by the council. These powers differ between councils. Community boards are not the same as the local boards in Auckland.

    What powers do local authorities have?
    Everything a local authority does is governed by a legislative framework. This framework is established by Parliament. Some of the key laws that govern and empower the system of local government are the:

  • Local Government Act 2002 (sets out the general powers of councils, planning and accountability requirements)
  • Local Government (Rating) Act 2002 (sets out the methods by which councils raise revenue through rates)
  • Local Elections Act 2001 (sets out the process for council elections)
  • In addition, many local government activities are governed by separate Acts of Parliament, such as the Resource Management Act 1991, the Building Act 2004 and the Bio-security Act 1993.

    Local bylaws
    A local authority has the power to make local bylaws. These enable the council to enforce local rules that help to:

  • protect the public from nuisance
  • protect, promote and maintain public health and safety
  • minimise the potential for offensive behaviour in public places
  • regulate activities, such as waste management
  • Funding local government
    Local authorities raise most of the funds they need from their communities. The sources include rates on property, returns from investments, and money raised from fees and charges for the services provided. Councils can also raise funds for major projects by borrowing. How much funding is raised from the various income streams is agreed to and included in the council’s long-term plan or annual plan. Central government also provides some funding or subsidies towards activities. This is most commonly given to help councils provide for roading and public transport services.
    How are decisions made?
    Councils may consult with their community and call for feedback submissions at any time and for any subject. In addition, councils are required to consult with their local communities over teir financial planning and decision making.

    All councils are required to publish a long-term plan (LTP) once every three years. The LTP describes the council’s activities, priorities and work programme for the next 10 years. It is a key planning tool that outlines everything a council intends to do, how it will fit together and what it will cost.

    Councils need to distribute a summary of the draft LTP so that everyone in the community is aware of what is proposed and have the opportunity to make submissions. Submissions provide the council with important feed-back on its future direction and priorities.

    In the two years when an LPT does not need to be produced, councils produce an annual plan. The annual plan sets out what the council plans to do in the next 12 months and how this relates to the most recent LTP. Like the LPT , the draft annual plan is open for public submissions.

    Councils are also required to produce an annual report. This tells the community how the council performed in relation to the LTP and annual plan.

    Both the LTP and annual plan are adopted before the start of the financial year in July. Annual reports must be adopted by the 31st of October each year. All LTP and annual report documents are audited.

    All of these draft and final documents may be viewed on your council’s website.

    How can I participate?
    There are numerous ways to be involved in local government activities and decision-making.

    If you are 18 years old or older , you may:

  • vote in your local council elections
  • be elected as a councillor or community board member
  • At any age, you may?

  • make a feedback submission on the council’s annual plan, LTP or any other consultation process the council might run
  • Attend and speak at council meetings (a schedule of meetings is published on the councils website).
  • Voting
    Local authority elections take place every three years on the second Saturday in October. You can find our about candidates standing in your area from your councils website. To vote you must be:

  • Over 18 years old
  • enrolled as a parliamentary elector at the address where you live
  • Standing for election
    You can stand for a mayoralty or membership of a council or community board if you are

  • a New Zealand citizen
  • at least 18 years old
  • on the electoral roll
  • To stand as a candidate i the local elections you need to have two electors for that area nominate you. Public notices are given for when nominations must be received. Becoming a candidate costs $200. This may be refunded, depending on how many votes you receive.

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