Role and functions

The Local Government Commission has a general role of promoting good local government in New Zealand. In part, this is achieved by the functions of:

  • providing information about local government
  • promoting good practice relating to a local authority or to local government generally.

The Commission may at its own discretion, or as directed by the Minister of Local Government, consider, report on, and make recommendations to the Minister and any relevant local authority on particular matters relating to a local authority or local government.

The Commission also has specific functions to consider and determine with the main ones summarised as follows:

  • appeals and objections against final local authority representation review proposals and also proposals not complying with statutory fair representation requirements (the ‘+/- 10% rule’). Read further information on local authority representation reviews.
  • initiatives or requests for an investigation relating to reorganisation of local government such as the union of local authorities, constitution of new local authorities, boundary alterations and transfers of responsibility between local authorities. Read further information on local government reorganisation.
  • requests by a district council to become a city council (this requires the area to have a population of 50,000 or more, to be predominantly urban and be a distinct entity and major centre of activity for the area)
  • appeals against a territorial authority decision not to constitute communities and community boards
  • disputes between local boards and governing bodies of unitary authorities about the allocation of decision-making responsibilities to local boards and decisions relating to local board bylaw proposals.

For a full description of all the Commission’s duties and functions under particular statutes see the Appendix.

The Chairperson of the Commission is also a non-voting member of the Representation Commission. The Representation Commission meets every five years to adjust the boundaries of parliamentary electorates following the Census.

What the Commission does not do

Local authorities, as democratically elected bodies, are accountable to their communities for their performance including meeting specific statutory responsibilities. Certain government agencies, however, have particular oversight responsibilities relating to local authorities or to particular local authority functions.

Given these arrangements, the Local Government Commission does not have involvement in or responsibility for such things as:

  • administering local authority elections including the conduct of candidates or electoral staff, or the policing of candidates’ election expenditure
  • regulating council meetings including agendas, standing orders or member conduct
  • enforcing council bylaws
  • the setting of local authority rates
  • resolving employment disputes affecting council staff
  • investigating complaints about inappropriate spending or alleged fraud or illegal behaviour
  • handling of requests for the release of official council information.

For more information about agencies involved in local government oversight, see our Useful links page

Appendix

Duties and functions of the Commission

Local Government Act 2002

Under this Act the Commission has a number of responsibilities.  These are:

(a) under section 16(7), to provide advice to the Minister of Local Government when a local authority has sought a binding ruling from the Minister on significant new activities proposed by a regional council;

(b) under section 26, to amend reorganisation plans and reorganisation implementation schemes;

(c) under section 27, to consider and determine applications from territorial authorities wishing to be called a city council or a district council;

(d) under section 30, if considered appropriate, to provide information about local government and to promote good practice relating to a local authority or to local government generally;

(e) under section 31, of its own volition or at the request of the Minister of Local Government, to report on, and make recommendations to the Minister and any relevant local authority, on matters relating to a local authority or local government;

(g) under sections 48R and 48S, to determine certain disputes between the governing body of unitary authorities (outside Auckland) and local boards;

(h) under Schedule 3, to undertake reorganisation investigations[1] following receipt of reorganisation initiatives[2] and reorganisation requests[3];

(i) under Schedule 3, clause 53, to be an arbiter on the apportionment of assets and liabilities between local authorities, following implementation of a reorganisation scheme, where there is disagreement;

(j) under Schedule 6, to consider and determine appeals where a territorial authority declines a request from a group of electors for the constitution of a community.

Local Government Act 1974

Section 517T of this Act provides that the Commission must hear and determine objections regarding proposals for the transfer of ownership and administration of local authority land drainage and water race schemes.

Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009

Section 98 of this Act provides for the Commission to determine certain disputes between the Auckland Council’s governing body and local boards.

Local Electoral Act 2001

Under this Act the Commission has four responsibilities:

  • under section 19R, to consider and determine appeals and objections relating to a local authority’s representation proposals for the next triennial local elections;
  • under section 19V, to consider decisions of local authorities to not comply with the fair representation requirement of section 19V(2);
  • under sections 19JA and 19JB, to make minor alterations to the boundaries of electoral areas; and
  • under section 19ZI, to issue guidelines identifying factors and considerations for local authorities to take into account when undertaking their representation reviews.

Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act 2008

Section 29 of this Act provides that if the Auckland Council does not approve a levy recommended by the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board, and the Council and Board cannot agree on an arbitrator, the Commission must appoint an arbitrator.

Electoral Act 1993

Section 28 of this Act provides that the Chairperson of the Local Government Commission is to be a non-voting member of the Representation Commission.

Museum of Transport and Technology Act 2000

Section 20(10) of this Act provides that where the Museum Board and the Museum’s Electoral College cannot agree on an arbitrator to determine the amount of the Museum’s levy, the arbitrator is to be appointed by the Local Government Commission.

New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000

Clause 20 of the Second Schedule to this Act provides that the Minister of Health may request the Minister of Local Government to refer to the Local Government Commission for inquiry and report, any question relating to the union, reconstitution, or alteration of the boundaries of any district or constituency of a district health board.

Port Companies Act 1988

Section 2A of this Act provides that the Commission may determine any matter where a regional council and a territorial authority are unable to reach agreement in respect of any function, power, duty, property, right or undertaking of a former harbour board transferred to them.

Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012

Sections 304, 337 and 363 of this Act empower the Commission to review the boundaries of licensing trust districts and wards, and of community trusts, to ensure they conform with the boundaries of meshblocks.

 

[1] A reorganisation investigation can result in recommendations to a local authority, one or more reorganisation plans or both.

[2] A reorganisation initiative seeks a specific reorganisation, i.e. the union, constitution, and abolition of districts and regions, creation of unitary authorities, boundary alterations, and transfers of responsibility.

[3] A reorganisation request seeks an investigation into an issue or matter but without proposing a particular reorganisation.