‘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’.

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