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Evolution Of Local Government A Timely Discussion Says Mayor

A review looking at the future for local government will be a timely discussion given the changing environment, and increased challenges and community expectations faced by the sector, Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has today announced an independent review to look at how local government it needs to evolve to ensure a sustainable sector that is able to deliver what communities need.

A review panel will initially consider what local government currently does, how and how that is funded, and will then explore what local government’s future looks like including roles, functions and partnerships, representation and governance, and funding and financing.

The review is expected to be completed by April 2023 and will include engagement with local government, iwi and communities. [See the Minister’s announcement below]

Mayor Chadwick says change is already coming as a result of the reforms that are currently underway, like the three waters and Resource Management Act reforms.

“There is also a lot of talk around infrastructure deficits and funding challenges faced by local government so with all of this going on, there is a discussion to be had about what is the future of local government overall.

“In Rotorua we are already working differently and innovatively, and are moving towards a much more community leadership approach with iwi and Central Government to find Rotorua-specific solutions to challenges that we face – like housing,” Mayor Chadwick says.

“We know our communities, culture and enduring sense of place and identity. We are well placed to sort through challenges with government agencies, iwi, the community and local sectors.

“Through locality planning we are working alongside communities to co-develop and there may be opportunities for health-related locality planning to be brought into that as part of the health system reforms announced this week.

“There’s a lot happening, changing and evolving right now so the review will be a good discussion for our country to have,” Mayor Chadwick says.

Minister’s announcement:

Independent review to explore future for local government

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta says an independent review of local government will explore how councils can maintain and improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders in the communities they serve long into the future.

Announcing the review today Nanaia Mahuta says it will focus on how our system of local democracy needs to evolve over the next 30 years.

“Local government plays an important role in our democratic system, giving people a voice in the leadership of their communities and in the governance of services and publicly owned assets.

“Local councils are essential to maintaining and improving our wellbeing and we need to get the right settings for them to continue delivering their important mahi.

“They are now facing a wave of reforms that will significantly affect their traditional roles and functions. They have told us the timing is right to determine what our system of local democracy should look like to make sure it is fit for the future, and I agree.

“This also offers an important opportunity to explore how we can embody the Treaty partnership through the role and representation of iwi/Māori in local government.

“I have asked the review panel to consider what local government does, how it does it, and how it pays for it. From there, they will explore what local government’s future looks like, including:

  • roles, functions and partnerships
  • representation and governance
  • funding and financing.

“I am expecting them to report back to me on their findings in April 2023,” Nanaia Mahuta says.

Cabinet has confirmed Jim Palmer as Chair of the review panel, who will be joined by four members: John Ombler QSO, Antoine Coffin, Gael Surgenor and Penny Hulse.

“I am confident the Review’s panel members have the right mix of professional and cultural backgrounds. They bring a wealth of complementary specialist skills and experience to deliver this important work,” Nanaia Mahuta says.

The panel members will be engaging with a broad range of stakeholders including iwi/Māori, other stakeholders impacted by changes in local government, the public including diverse communities, and local and central government representatives.

The Review will start engaging with the sector from May 2021. It will issue an interim report on the probable direction of the Review in September 2021. This will be followed by a draft report for public consultation in September 2022, and a final report in April 2023.

Further information about the review and Terms of Reference can be found HERE on the DIA website.

Bios of the chair and panel members for the Review:


  • Jim Palmer, recently retired as the Chief Executive of the Waimakariri District Council. Mr Palmer has leadership roles in the Greater Christchurch Partnership and the Canterbury Interim Regional Skills Leadership Group. Mr Palmer has had a wide range of prior governance experience on various groups including Co-chair of Canterbury Covid Recovery Oversight Group and Chair of the Canterbury Chief Executives Forum.

Panel members

  • John Ombler, QSO, has been a senior public servant who has held a wide range of leadership roles, most recently as Deputy State Services Commissioner, Controller of the All-of-Government COVID-19 response and Deputy Chief Executive of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He was also the Acting CEO of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (2014 to 2016), and held General Manager and Conservator roles at the Department of Conservation (1989-2007).
  • Antoine Coffin, a director/consultant at Te Onewa Consultants, which works with private and public sector clients in strategic planning, RMA decision-making, infrastructure and building relationships with tangata whenua. Mr Coffin has 25 years’ experience in Māori resource management, cultural heritage planning, community engagement and facilitation, and has worked across multiple sectors in regional and local government, corporate organisations and museums.
  • Gael Surgenor, General Manager of Community and Social Innovation at Auckland Council (including leading the Southern Initiative, a place-based approach to wellbeing) and a member of the South Auckland Social Wellbeing Board and Chair of the Auckland Co-Design Lab Governance Group Collaboration of Auckland Council and ten government agencies.
  • Penny Hulse, currently a board member of Kainga Ora, Auckland Museum and Aktive (regional sport body), as well as a trustee of the Community Waitakere Trust. Ms Hulse was the Deputy Mayor of Auckland Council (2010 to 2016) and retired as a Councillor in 2019 after a 27-year period in roles for Waitakere City Council and Auckland Council.

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