Local government in New Zealand consists of city, district and regional councils which are corporate bodies, established in statute, with the authority to make decisions and set directions in the best long term interests of their communities.
Like central government, local government draws its legitimacy from parliament and operates on the basis of an electoral mandate provided by citizens.
The local government sector consists of:
Many councils have second tier or sub-municipal bodies which are also elected. These are known as community boards or local boards (only found in Auckland). There are currently 116 community boards and 21 local boards across the country.
While the average population per council is approximately 65,000 residents, the range between the largest and smallest council extends from 1.4 million residents in Auckland to approximately 650 in the Chatham Islands.
The Auckland Council is a new model of local government, designed to strengthen regional leadership while providing effective local and community democracy in the city. Auckland Council has two complementary decision‑making parts:
The governing body and the local boards share the decision‑making responsibilities. The governing body focuses on the big picture and region-wide strategic decisions while local boards represent their local communities and make decisions on local issues, such as neighbourhood facilities.
The Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 gives local boards a number of specific responsibilities as well as providing for the delegation of responsibilities by the governing body. In particular, it specifies that decision-making on non-regulatory activities should be allocated to local boards unless the well being of communities would be better promoted by region-wide decision-making.
Community boards were established as part of the overall re-organisation of local government in 1989 to give defined communities a voice in the new amalgamated local authorities. Boards are elected every three years along with their parent councils and councils can appoint councillors to each board.
The role of the community board is to:
While some councils have kept delegations to a minimum, leaving community boards with a largely advisory role as defined in the LGA 2002, others have found that providing boards with a wide range of local functions improves their ability to meet community outcomes.
For further information view the Community Boards page.
Last updated: April 2013
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