‘Localism’ and support for ‘Kiwi community power’

A joint Local Government New Zealand/New Zealand Initiative conference will be held in Wellington today to explore the results of a survey that indicates the majority of those surveyed support a move towards local services being managed and provided by local decision-makers.

From NZ Initiative:

With New Zealanders’ attitudes towards devolved government shifting, many believe now is the time to explore localism.

The majority of New Zealanders believe that:

  • Locally controlled services will be more responsive to local needs (54%)
  • Local government would be more accountable to the locals they live amongst (53%), and
  • Local people would make better decisions based on greater understanding of local needs (52%)

At the top of the list of supported services that should be controlled by local decision-makers was vocational training (52%). This finding will be of interest in the context of the Government’s proposed merger of existing polytechs into a single national body.

At today’s LGNZ/Initiative Localism Symposium, over 130 delegates will hear from local government, business and private sector leaders about how much better New Zealand’s government could be by adopting devolution.

Dr Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative, will launch #localismNZ: Bringing power to the people.

This new primer on localism explains the rationale behind localism and responds to commonly heard objections.

He will explain how unusual New Zealand’s centralism is when compared internationally. New Zealand’s councils have limited fiscal autonomy. Their mandate is also much more restricted than local government in other parts of the world.

Number of local government bodies:

  • New Zealand 78 (average size 68,970)
  • Australia 571 (average size 42,026)
  • Switzerland 2,281 (average size 3,673)
  • Spain 8,192 (average size 5,714)
  • Germany 11.473 (average size 7,389)
  • France 35,535 (average size 1,872)

“Now is the time to bring the power and decision-making back to a local level,” says Dr Hartwich. “As more people recognise the absurdities of our centralised system of government and become more curious about the localist alternative, we need to build on this momentum.”

Local Government New Zealand President Dave Cull believes that communities need to be empowered to make decisions that support their local advantages, rather than having flat, top-down rules imposed upon them.

“In many instances, local people are in the best position to make decisions for their communities, not Wellington. For example, having polytechs create pathways to grow local industries, rather than shutting them down and sending our school leavers to the main centres.”

“The current governance and funding methods for local government are backwards – we need to be incentivising healthy competition between regions and sustainable growth, rather than stifling, and in many cases draining our regions of resources.”

The survey only has small majorities supporting more ‘localism’.


Leave a comment


  1. NOEL

     /  28th February 2019

    I hope this isn’t going to be similar to the “parents know best” that resulted in poor Governance of a number of schools.

    • PartisanZ

       /  28th February 2019

      Conversely, I hope its not going to be similar to Rogered & Ruthanased know best that resulted in poor governance of our entire nation by corporate-political elites, primarily for the benefit of corporate-political elites …

  2. PartisanZ

     /  28th February 2019

    I’m seriously suspicious of NZInitiative and moderately suspicious of LGNZ …

    When you think about it, they are pretty strange bedfellows … The Association of Local Governments with, essentially, the old Business RoundTable and newer NZInstitute …

    “The New Zealand Initiative’s predecessor organisations were both business membership organisations. The Wellington-based NZBR, founded by Roger Kerr in 1986, was among the main proponents of New Zealand’s liberal economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s” – Wiki

    This was Central Government stuff through and through … Re-regulation falsely advertised as ‘deregulation’ … the ideological indoctrination or subjugation of an entire population over 30+ years …

    For some reason, NZInitiative is now supporting “localism” – quite a different thing – though what we can be fairly certain of is that both they and LGNZ are today trying to feather their own nests just as much as ever at the expense of Central Govt … BUT WHY?

    Well … How about ‘Wealth & Power’? Local government is strengthened with NZInitiative as the driving ‘Think Tank’ … Good for business wealth, good for Local Government power?

    The danger is a ‘localizing’ of corporate-political elitism

    Life in “the provinces” becomes a cycle of local government procurement and CCO-based ‘projects’ at the amalgamated local government level … City and District Councils … probably with funding still dictated at Central Govt level via [pork barrel] mechanisms like RoNS and PGF …

    Central Govt is proper and correct for some things, just as, indeed, Global Government is correct and proper for some things, such as the regulation of global markets …

    The real test will be if “localism” is preferred at a much more local level than the current amalgamated Local Governments … Something like a return to the old County Councils which worked so well in their time?

    What if, for instance, the Principle of Subsidiarity actually worked best at the level of Residents & Ratepayers Associations?

    How would Dr Oliver Hartwich feel about that?

    After all, that’s approximately the level at which his favourite ‘democracy’ works, namely Switzerland … (where there is no Treaty with or need for consideration of indigenous people) …

    Then, of course, there’s the question of what we do about a generation or two of people more-or-less entirely disengaged from local politics by the implementation of the very ideology NZInitiative originally supported … Our Rogered Children & Grandchildren …

  3. The Consultant

     /  28th February 2019

    Looks like Croaking Cassandra is on the case:

    When it comes to centralisation, New Zealand is an outlier amongst developed countries, with decision making heavily concentrated in central government politicians and officials. For every tax dollar spent by local authorities, Wellington spends $7.30.

    This is not a record to be proud of. Comparisons with OECD countries show that productivity per capita and decentralised decision making are correlated, and on both measures New Zealand ranks back of the developed world pack. More practically, New Zealand’s diverse communities have long outgrown one-size-fits-all policy making, and there is a growing acceptance that we need to devolve and decentralise decision making to celebrate and leverage our differences.

    The challenge is how do we do it?

    Meh – judging by the “thinking” going on in education, combined with the opinions about the plebs expressed by our betters, I’d say we’ll either trundle on as now or increase centralised government power. It’s lot easier to do that in a small country like NZ.

    • PartisanZ

       /  28th February 2019

      I see a “see” … and a “saw” … and they are irrevocably pushing in opposite directions …

      The obvious and possibly optimum solution to education issues, Primary-Secondary and Polytech, would simply have been to provide more support for the existing decentralized model … especially governance support …

      Assuming, of course, that we’re not going to fix up the inequality at the base of our society, which changing one component like education is not going to do …

      So while LGNZ and NZInitiative talk about “localism”, central government is centralizing …

      See … Saw … See … Saw …

      Our wonderful Westminster system is not designed to seek “balance” though, is it?

      • The Consultant

         /  28th February 2019

        Assuming, of course, that we’re not going to fix up the inequality at the base of our society,….

        Well that’s where you Anarchists always give up and swing back to centralised government power, Vanguard movements and all that shite.

        Allowing localised control will inevitably mean inequality arising out of different decisions, choices and good/bad luck. And folk like absolutely have to stop that happening or reverse it.

    • PartisanZ

       /  28th February 2019

      @The Consultant – “It’s lot easier to do that – [increase centralized government power] – in a small country like NZ.”

      Which makes me wonder why Switzerland hasn’t done it?

      I know! Maybe its because we have a long, long colonial TRADITION of centralized government power?

      That’s what we should look at … and WHY?

      I suggest two big components of that are A) Maori … and B) Land …

  4. Sunny

     /  28th February 2019

    Localism in our area – All major contracts go to “partnership contracts” . Partnership contracts are not tendered and non specific and based on shared objectives. Our local “enviro centre” has a partnership contract which gets $1.6 million a year! So plenty of money. But most of the work is done by the volunteers that they recruit to do the community work. The main job of the employed people is to “Educate” and manage volunteers. There is also so much conflict of interest. For example one of our council community contracts for environmental weeding, the council manager set up a trust and also a business with the same name as that trust. And so he gets his salary and it’s unclear how much if any he makes from running his businesses. The business then selects certain streets to receive free assistance, plants weedbins for their roadside and private property. But in summary, “localism” in our council has resulted in poor procurement, nothing being tendered or price checked, lack of transparency on outcomes, conflicts of interest with staff members procuring to their own companies or charitable trusts where the staff and/or politicians are the trustees.. Council process is out of control. And there is significantly less detail in the Agendas about financials and specifics and more decisions being made in workshops.

  5. NOEL

     /  28th February 2019

    Recently my local council came up with a proposal to do away with community boards and they would nominate knowledgeable community members to a new identity.
    Didn’t fly , I suspect the submitters claiming that the would not pay any levy without representation caused a change of mind.

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  28th February 2019

    Local control vanished with the 1989 local government amalgamations forced through by Labour’s Michael Bassett. Labour and the Greens will always centralise so right-thinking politicians can control any contrary individuals who might want to manage their own lives. LGNZ is just another empire building bureaucracy that has zero intention of doing anything but increase their own powers.

    • PartisanZ

       /  28th February 2019

      A point well-made by Rightie standards Alan …

      So the Fifth National government must have opposed even more amalgamation …?

      “In 2007, the government set up a Royal Commission on Auckland Governance to report on what restructuring should be done. The report was released on 27 March 2009 and the government subsequently announced that a “super city” would be set up to include the full metropolitan area under an Auckland Council with a single mayor and 20–30 local boards, by the time of the local body elections in 2010″ – Wikipedia

      No! They didn’t …!!!

      SuperCity … then referenda on amalgamating other District Councils including the three Northland Councils … all under National …

      A few degrees Left or Right of Centre is all that differentiates Red & Blue governments now


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