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Independent Review To Explore Future For Local Government

Hon Nanaia Mahuta

Minister of Local Government
Minita Kaunihera ā-Rohe

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.

The Terms of Reference can be found on the DIA website here www.dia.govt.nz/Future-for-Local-Government-Review

Bios of the chair and panel members for the Review

Chair

• 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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