20 December 2021

Reflecting on our early soundings

During the first phase of the Review, we met with local authorities, some iwi, and business leaders across Aotearoa. These soundings were an excellent way to understand the challenges facing local governance and what could be improved. The information from these soundings has been summarised into a report.

Reflecting on our early soundings

One of our first priorities in the early stages of the Review was to meet with local authorities across Aotearoa. We also met with some iwi and business leaders. We refer to these meetings in our initial stage as ‘soundings’.

We invited those we met with at local authorities to share what our existing system is great at, and what makes staff proud to be part of local government. We also asked what future opportunities local government could focus on that would support community wellbeing.

A report on these early soundings is available here.

‘It is vital that we understand what is working well with the current system, so our recommendations can build on this. Equally, we want to explore what might need to change to face the challenges of the future.’ — Penny Hulse, Panel member.

Common themes

The early soundings captured a range of different perspectives. Some of the common themes to emerge were:

  • The importance of decisions being made by local decision-makers. Understanding of local issues and strong links with community means they can respond quickly – particularly important in an emergency or civil defence event.
  • A commitment through funding and processes to co-governance with Māori, mana whenua, iwi and hapū.
  • A commitment to delivering on the ‘four wellbeings’ – the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of our communities.
  • Responding to climate change was also seen as an important part of wellbeing.
  • The need for a broader funding base involving the devolution of central government funds. Many suggested that GST collected on rates should be available for local use.
  • Some described a low level of trust in the relationship between central and local government and local government staff felt that local people were more likely to trust local decision-makers. Local government was seen as more responsive, particularly in emergency situations. It was also seen to be better networked, in terms of services, infrastructure providers and contractors.
  • Suggestions for more education for elected members about their role and the role of local government.
  • Suggestions for greater engagement with communities, particularly to engage young people with local government and for civics education in schools.

How the soundings are shaping the Review

These early soundings helped form the basis of our interim report, Ārewa ake te Kaupapa: Raising the Platform.

The interim report reflects on what we have heard so far, and outlines our priority questions and lines of inquiry. We also offer some early opportunities for improvements.

The interim report is available to read or download here.

What's next?

We’re now well into the engagement phase, where we are engaging in a nationwide kōrero about the future of local governance and democracy in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In early 2022, we’ll be setting off on a local government roadshow where we will offer the opportunity to meet with every council in the country.

Further to this, we are continuing to engage with iwi/Māori. We are meeting directly with some iwi, working alongside Māori working within the local government sector including Te Maruata and Ngā Kairapu, working with futures focused rangatahi and have established a Māori Thought Leaders Rōpū. We are planning to establish a series of regional kōrero for iwi and hapū to ensure there is an opportunity for diverse perspectives to be heard, and contribute to the Review. We acknowledge that there is significant pressure of iwi and hapū capacity at the moment with a number of large government reviews and reforms underway.

We have begun meeting with a range of diverse groups, such as rainbow communities, Pasifika communities, former refugee communities, environmental NGOs and rural communities, amongst others. This engagement will ensure we hear a range of perspectives to help shape our draft report and recommendations.

Have your say

We are very interested in hearing opinions from all New Zealanders. You can let us know what you think the future for local government could look like through our online survey.