Local government

A list of our content (including reports, articles, blog posts, and published letters) about the local government sector (city, district, and unitary councils, and council-controlled organisations).
Consulting matters: Observations on the 2021-31 consultation documents

December 2021: Councils need to provide their communities with reliable and clear information about the matters proposed for inclusion in their long-term plan and the costs of these so that their community can engage with and provide feedback on this. This report provides our observations on councils' 2021-31 long-term plan consultation documents.

Our observations on local government risk management practices

October 2021:We have previously reported that risk management was one of the least mature elements of governance in the public sector. Therefore, we carried out work to better understand the current state of councils' risk management, where the challenges and issues are, and what support councils need to improve how they manage risk.

Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act 1968: A guide for members of local authorities on managing financial conflicts of interest

June 2020: The Local Authorities (Members' Interests) Act 1968 (the Act) is somewhat out of date and difficult to understand, and the rules are not always easy to apply in a modern local government context. That is why we have written this plain English guide. We want members who are covered by the Act, and those advising them, to be aware of the Act's rules and the steps they need to take to ensure that they do not inadvertently breach them. This guide also explains our statutory functions under the Act.

Local government procurement

May 2020: Last year we visited 21 councils throughout New Zealand to see how they carry out procurement. We heard about the challenges councils are facing and where they felt they could improve. Based on these visits, and observations from our other work on procurement, we wrote an article that poses a series of questions about procurement practice and culture.

Councillors' guide to the Auditor-General

September 2019: This booklet is for the elected members of councils and for new members in particular. It gives an overview of the Auditor-General's role and also outlines the kinds of interaction they can expect with the Auditor-General and with his staff.

Managing freshwater quality: Challenges and opportunities

September 2019: In 2011, we published a report on how effectively Waikato Regional Council, Taranaki Regional Council, Horizons Regional Council, and Environment Southland managed the effects of land use on freshwater quality in their regions. We found that the effectiveness of the four regional councils' approaches was variable. In this report, we assess the progress they have made since 2011.

Author portrait picture Responding to a changing climate

Sector Manager Kristin Aitken from our Local Government team delves into some of the terms used by councils and experts in their efforts to address the effects of climate change. She also takes a look at what councils are already doing, and what they need to consider for their next long-term plans.

Our 2018 work about local government

May 2019: This report presents the main findings from our audits of councils' long-term plans (LTPs), the results of our annual audits, and other work in local government during 2017/18.

Inquiry into procurement of work by Westland District Council at Franz Josef

March 2019: This report concerns a decision of the Westland District Council to carry out work at Franz Josef to protect the town's wastewater treatment plant from flooding. The work was carried out on an urgent basis and resulted in the construction of a new 700-metres-long stopbank on the bank of the Waiho River. In this report, we acknowledge the serious nature of the flood risk the Council was dealing with, and the motivation of the elected members who were driving the decision to act in the community's best interests. However, we have serious concerns about what was done in this case.

Managing the supply of and demand for drinking water

September 2018: We audited three district councils (Horowhenua District Council, Kāpiti Coast District Council, and Manawatu District Council) and one city council (Palmerston North City Council) to understand the challenges they face in supplying drinking water to their communities. We looked at what these four councils are doing to influence demand for drinking water and whether they are taking an integrated approach, using financial and non-financial methods.

Long-term plans: Our audits of councils’ consultation documents

August 2018: In 2018, councils were required – for the second time since the Local Government Act 2002 was amended in 2014 – to produce consultation documents for their long-term plans. This report is based on our audits of the 2018-28 consultation documents. It is a mix of reflection, commentary, and good-practice guidance. We hope that this combination provides a useful resource for the next time councils prepare and consult on their planning documents.

Local government: Results of the 2016/17 audits

March 2018: This report presents the results of our annual audits and other work in local government during 2016/17. Some of our findings are recurring, which is of concern. Elected members are ultimately responsible for what a local authority does, how it does it, and the consequences. We acknowledge the multiple demands on local authorities to balance service delivery and costs, and we hope that the findings in this report make a useful contribution to addressing matters that need to be considered.

Getting the right information to effectively manage public assets: Lessons from local authorities

December 2017: Elected councillors need relevant and reliable information to make good decisions about managing the assets they govern. As communities and environments change, the challenges that local authorities face and decisions they make are becoming more complex. We looked at how five local authorities approached identifying and gathering the right information about their assets...