At some point all societies get round to reviewing the way in which they are governed. There are many drivers behind this, including technological change, population shifts, as well as sudden geopolitical and economic shocks. Rather than a bad thing, this is a healthy sign that societies are adapting as the world changes around them.
How this is done varies, ranging from the sudden, or incremental, in which patterns of governance change gradually over time. Inherent within any review is the question of how government should be organised. Should public decision-making be the responsibility of a single national government or should it be distributed between orders of government, local, regional and national, and other sectors, such as Iwi/Maori? Or somewhere in between?
LGNZ believes it is time for New Zealand to have this discussion. Our localism initiative is designed to promote local discussions about “who should do what?” and how do we strengthen local self-government of matters that are local. We need a review because our highly centralised system of governance in New Zealand (we’re one of the most centralised countries in the world) has run out of puff. Productivity is falling, our ability to respond rapidly is constrained by miles of red tape, and it is holding our economy and communities back.
On this website you will find arguments that set out the case for localism and decentralisation in our consultation document. It’s intended to spark a conversation with you and sets out our argument about why we believe greater localism is a vitally important one for the citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Local government’s unique advantage is its focus on place and community. Councils are the closest form of government to the people, and receive their mandate from local citizens. Unlike central government, communities give their steer to their councils on a ongoing basis that’s not limited to voting every three years. However, councils can only meet the expectations of their citizens if they have the appropriate mix of responsibilities and powers. They also need what we might call the policy space in which to make decisions, innovate and take responsibility for outcomes.
Our localism project is not just about strengthening local government. Our priority is to empower communities so that local citizens are more able to influence the future direction of their town, city or district, or, in the context of Māoridom, enabling Iwi and Hapu to better shape their own destinies.
Currently the centralised nature of the New Zealand state crowds out local government and diminishing both the achievement of effective urban governance and the local innovation necessary for growth. The case for change is both strong and inevitable as social and economic forces continue to erode the ability of highly centralised organisations to cope with the pace of change.