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Local government basics

NZ's Local Government » Local government basics

Local government basics

The Local Government Act 2002 states that the purpose of local government is:

  1. To enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and

  2. To meet the current and future needs of communities for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions in a way that is most cost-effective for households and businesses.

Council activities

Regional councils are primarily concerned with environmental resource management, flood control, air and water quality, pest control, and, in specific cases, public transport, regional parks and bulk water supply.

Territorial authorities are responsible for a wide range of local services including roads, water reticulation, sewerage and refuse collection, libraries, parks, recreation services, local regulations, community and economic development, and town planning.

Councils, however, can differ widely in relation to activities they undertake, as long as they have consulted their communities in making the decisions.  As a result, there is considerable diversity in the range of activities that councils provide, reflecting the different circumstances that cities, towns and communities find themselves in.

Participating in local government

One of the strengths of local government is the opportunity it allows for citizens to be directly engaged in the process of governing their own towns, cities and regions.  The practice of self government enhances our understanding of citizenship while ensuring public services are responsive to the needs of the communities they are designed to serve. 

You can have a say in how your community is run by voting in the local government elections, or even standing yourself. For more information about standing for your council, visit the elections section.

Date updated: 19 July 2016