< June 2022 newsletter

Radical changes to local government afoot

A Ministerial review into the future for Local Government is underway “to consider how New Zealand’s system of local democracy and governance will need to evolve over the next 30 years, in order to improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders, and actively embody the Treaty partnership”. Ārewa ake te Kaupapa – Raising the platform

​​The Review is taking place in three stages.

The first stage “Setting The Priorities” involved initial scoping and early engagement with local government and selected organisations to help take a future-focused look at the local governance system and identify key issues and lines of inquiry. The INTERIM REPORT - RAISING THE PLATFORM, released September 2021, reflects the results of that work and signals broad lines of inquiry for the next stage. If you want to provide feedback on these priorities, fill out the priority questions survey HERE by 30 June 2022.

Stage two of the review involves ​​speaking with a range of people (local and central government, iwi and hapū, and other groups and individuals) about the “Five Key Shifts” that the panel believes are essential to a future system of local governance. The panel has produced a discussion document - SHARING OUR THINKING - and is seeking feedback for consideration. See information below on two upcoming public Q&A WEBINARS on the 17 & 20 June. If you want to feed back on these shifts, fill in the key shifts survey HERE by 30 June 2022.

The third stage will see the panel report to the Minister of Local Government with draft findings and recommendations. This report is due to be released mid-October 2022. A formal consultation on the review panel’s draft recommendations will then be held. This feedback will be considered before delivering the final report in April 2023.

Here is a summary of the ways you can have your say: 

  1. Fill out the stage one priority questions survey HERE by 30 June 2022.
  2. Join one of the stage two public webinars, (on 17 & 20 June), and complete the key shifts survey HERE by 30 June 2022
  3. Send a submission through the Get Vocal in Your Local online tool. This is aimed at young people, but anyone can take part. Fill in the survey HERE by 30 June 2022
  4. Get in touch through their contact page or follow them on social media HERE or email them at [email protected]

All feedback and submissions on stages one and two are due by 30 June 2022. 


Join one of two webinars (or both) to listen to an update, to ask questions, and to have a say on what local government could look like in 2050. Anyone can attend. They are to be held on:

Friday, 17 June 2022 at 10 - 11AM. Register for the event HERE
Monday, 20 June 2022 at 7 - 8PM. Register for this event HERE

What’s up for discussion?

The ‘five key shifts’ proposed by the review panel are:

  1. Strengthened local democracy 
  2. Stronger focus on wellbeing 
  3. Authentic relationship with hapū/iwi/Māori – one that “enables self-determination, shared authority and prosperity”.
  4. Genuine partnership between central government and local government 
  5. More equitable funding 

A full overview of these key shifts can be found HERE 

If you’re uncomfortable asking a question, send your questions to us and we’ll try to get them answered. Email [email protected] by next Wednesday, June 15 2022.

If you don’t want to wade through the whole document, please see a brief commentary on some of the issues of concern below.


DIA: The Future for Local Government

Review Panel: Review into the Future for Local Government 

Review Panel: Public Webinars: a korero about the future for local government

Democracy Action: See Future for Local Government Review signals Treaty-based local governance, November 2021

For an insight into the ideas informing the review panel's proposals, take a look at the reports and research papers on the Future for Local Government website by clicking HERE. Of particular interest are two papers by Professor Dominic O'Sullivan (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu). The papers consider what equal participation and partnership between Māori and the Crown mean for local government, and introduce the idea of “differentiated” citizenship.


The Review into the Future for Local Government has been asked to reimagine local governance 30 years from now, looking at what local government does (its roles, functions and partnerships), how it does it (representation and governance), and how it pays for it (funding and financing), in order to “improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody the Treaty partnership.”

The review panel has proposed five key “shifts” required in order to achieve these outcomes. They cover local governments’ role in promoting wellbeing and equity in partnership with hapū/iwi/Māori and central government; and public participation in local government in partnership with hapū/iwi/Māori. 

These proposed shifts have a lot in common with the ideas promoted in He Puapua - the radical plan to dispense with democratic equality, and to embed the Treaty of Waitangi into our constitutional arrangements. 

He Puapua calls for our democracy to be “broken”, replacing it with a dual system whereby hapū/iwi/Māori and the Crown are separate political entities that have separate institutions and authority over the people and places of New Zealand. Additionally, it suggests Maori must be able to participate in Crown governance, citing article 3 of the Treaty. (See p.11 He Puapua)

This is the model that informs many of the reforms we see today - for instance, in health, water services, education, and resource management. 

The ideas promoted in He Puapua can be seen throughout the proposed key “shifts” for the future of local government, including the call for “hybrid systems [of democracy] to complement elected members, including iwi/Māori and appointed experts,” and for local government to have an “authentic and effective relationship with Hapū/Iwi… beyond representation at the governance table, to achieve equitable outcomes for Māori.”

Or put another way the “opportunity for Hapū/iwi/Māori to be involved in decision making, to be a decision-maker and deliverer of services and activities (exercising tino rangatiratanga). This would require “additional capacity for iwi/Māori to participate in local governance.” Sharing our thinking - Future for Local Government

The review calls for local government to move from a “traditional focus on infrastructure service delivery” to a focus on “complex wellbeing challenges including economic and social equity and climate change action,” in partnership with iwi and community. 

To further the quest for equity the review calls for “flexible general and special purpose financing tools” that “support principles of equity/wellbeing,” “taking account of communities’ ability to pay.” As the panel has refrained from defining what they mean by equity and wellbeing, they have formulated a recipe for those in charge, (no longer necessarily to be democratically elected), to decide how much each member of the community pay based on a perception of the community’s ability to pay.


N.B. This commentary is merely a snapshot of some of the issues that are of concern in the review panel’s discussion document, ‘Sharing our thinking.’ We encourage you to read this document and participate in the public webinars, where you will have a chance to challenge the panel on their ideas. Following this, please make a submission, which is due by 30 June.

Go back to the June 2022 newsletter


Local Government Review Call for Submissions

The juggernaut advancing major constitutional changes to the way our country is governed continues to roll on, much of it flying under the radar. The Government’s radical restructuring agenda includes a review of local government, the purpose of which is “to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody Te Tiriti partnership”. Continue reading

Future for Local Government review proposes radical change

As part of the Government’s wide-reaching reform agenda, (think education and health sectors, three waters, the conservation estate, the RMA replacement), a two-year ministerial review into the future for Local Government was launched in April 2021. The purpose of the review is “to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody Te Tiriti partnership”. Continue reading

LGNZ has lost the plot!

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), an organisation that purportedly represents the interests of local authorities (and by extension local communities), appears to have changed its prime allegiance from local authorities to central government. Continue reading

A recipe for ‘differentiated citizenship’

The Government’s radical plan to impose co-governance over all aspects of the New Zealand government came a step closer with the release of the Review into the Future for Local Government draft report. Read the report here. Continue reading


Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta wants to make it mandatory for councils to consider Māori wards. “Under the proposed changes, when councils undertake their regular Representation Review every six years, the first step must be a decision about whether to establish Māori wards or constituencies. Currently there is no obligation to consider Māori wards at all”, said Ms Mahuta. Continue reading


The Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu) Bill, creating permanent Ngāi Tahu representation on Environment Canterbury (ECAN), undergoes its third reading this week. This legislation represents a significant shift away from two key principles of democracy: equal suffrage and accountability at the ballot box. Continue reading


As local body elections loom in September/October, concerns are being expressed that councillors are insufficiently resourced to effectively represent their constituents. Continue reading

Taupō District Council throws democracy under the bus!

Are the current murmurings of Mt Ruapehu a sign that the gods are not happy with the new Taupō Council agreement?  Taupō District Council recently signed a Mana Whakahono ā Rohe agreement with Ngāti Tūrangitukua that has taken a statutory obligation under the RMA much further than required under the legislation - to a whole new level of co-governance. This agreement includes of a range of policy, planning and operational areas outside of the RMA. Continue reading

Council Codes of Conduct - a tool for muzzling councillors?

Former Prime Minister Sir Bill English described Codes of Conduct as a threat to democracy a good 15 years ago, but we didn't heed his warning. Today they are being used by Councils as a tool to silence our elected representatives - blocking criticism by councillors. This is undermining the democratic process.  Codes of Conduct are designed to ensure the reputation of the Council is upheld within the community. They are not meant to be used as a means of preventing elected members from expressing their views. However, it appears this is happening to an alarming degree. Continue reading

Submission on the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill

  WRITTEN SUBMISSION Democracy Action does not support the Bill.  We do not support establishing iwi-based power by appointment in our governance arrangements. Therefore, we oppose the purpose of the Act, that is, to enable Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to appoint up to 2 members to the Canterbury Regional Council.  We urge the Government to reject the Bill in its entirety.  Continue reading

Future for Local Government Review signals Treaty-based local governance

Local government is facing a wave of radical changes - such as the overhaul of the three waters sector and the resource management system - that will significantly affect their traditional roles and functions.  Continue reading

Do your Council’s representation arrangements fail the equal rights test?

Councils owe a duty of fair representation to all the citizens they represent, yet this fundamental principle of democratic governance is being ignored by councils as they build “Treaty partnerships” with their Māori citizens. This is very apparent at Rotorua Lakes Council, where undemocratic arrangements have been introduced to “strengthen the voice of Māori in our decision making”.  Continue reading

Government plans to seize ratepayers’ assets - without compensation

Local Government Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta has announced further details of the Government's regulatory and structural reform of water service delivery in New Zealand. The plan is for an unprecedented transfer of billions of dollars of ratepayer-funded assets from local bodies to four entities. Continue reading

Local Government update

Government plans a local government system that actively embodies the Treaty partnership. On 23 April 2021 the Minister of Local Government established a review into the future for Local Government:  “The overall purpose of the Review is, as a result of the cumulative changes being progressed as part of the Government’s reform agenda, to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand communities and the environment, and actively embody the Treaty partnership”. Continue reading

Tauranga citizens to be further disenfranchised

The anti-democratic madness continues apace in Tauranga. Following the Government-appointed Commissioners recent decision to establish a Māori ward, they have also agreed to a new committee – the Strategy, Finance and Risk Committee - which embodies the 'Treaty partnership', but goes further than that, effectively shutting out the wider community. Continue reading

Māori wards update - May

Even though time and time again referenda have shown that most New Zealanders are opposed to race-based voting systems, 24 local authorities have recently either made the decision to proceed with Māori wards or have indicated an intention to do so. In addition to those mentioned in the April edition of the Democracy Action newsletter, the following have voted to proceed down this path: Continue reading

The cost to ratepayers of implementing the partnership principle

Photo: Penny Smart, Chair of Northland Regional Council The partnership-with-iwi provisions are creating significant cost pressures for councils. This includes large and on-going costs associated with implementing and maintaining the variety of ways Iwi/Māori are involved in local government and contribute to council decision making. Continue reading

Further Councils Considering Establishing Māori Wards

Councils: Waipa, Hawke’s Bay, Horizons, Horowhenua, Hamilton As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the new Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act 2021 extended the deadline for councils to consider Māori wards for the 2022 triennial local government elections to 21 May 2021. This has brought forward a flurry of proposals and votes.  Continue reading

Government legislates away a democratic right

“Labour will ensure that major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset.”  So pledged the Labour Party during the 2020 election campaign. Just four months later they have broken this promise in spectacular fashion, passing under urgency the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act - thereby abolishing the right of local communities to petition for a referendum on Maori wards or constituencies. Continue reading

Step by step, the undermining of democracy continues……….

Maori wards are not the only avenue for separate local government representation for Māori. Continue reading

No respect for democracy - Government to muzzle citizens

In a shock announcement, the Government reveals it intends to use the extraordinary powers reserved for use when the nation is under threat to get rid of legislation that enables referenda on Māori wards. Continue reading

We want a vote on Māori wards!

The Local Electoral Act’s binding poll system is a form of direct democracy that enables local electors to choose for themselves by simple majority vote whether or not they support race-based council representation. However, to trigger a poll 5 percent of electors must support a petition to hold the referendum. Campaigns to do so have already started in several regions. Please offer your support and encouragement to those who are standing up for the right to have a say on whether we support designated race-based seats at the council table. Continue reading

Mayors seek law change to thwart citizens’ right to have a say on Māori wards

Every six years local bodies are obliged to review the ward system. We have seen a flurry of such activity over the past few months, with both New Plymouth and Tauranga acting to establish Māori wards, and others considering whether to follow suit.  Continue reading

More councils adopt racially-selected appointees

Despite constituents strongly opposing separate race-based representation, as shown in referenda held in 2018, the number of councils across New Zealand which have appointed unelected members with voting rights to council committees has grown exponentially over the last couple of years. The following are examples (by no means the total number) of councils who have recently taken the obligation to consult with Māori to an undemocratic level: Continue reading

Yahoo! A double win for democracy

We end the year with the welcome news that the bill making it harder to remove the Māori seats from Parliament has been voted down at the second reading, with New Zealand First opposing the change. Only Labour and the Green Party supported the legislation. The bill cleared its first hurdle in Parliament last year with the unlikely support of New Zealand First, which opposes the Māori seats. The party wanted to use the bill as a vehicle to hold a two-part referendum on the seats, asking whether they should be entrenched or done away with altogether. But no referendum was added after the select committee stage. Continue reading

Local Body Elections 2019

The Democracy Action working group is preparing a set of questions to ask candidates. Please take the opportunity to call radio shows with guest candidates, and attend public meetings, to ask a question or two. Continue reading

The undermining of our democracy continues apace

Please see below some examples from around the country: Earlier this year the Minister of Conservation signed a partnership agreement between the ministry, DOC and Auckland iwi Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, to share in the management of natural resources, and cultural and historical heritage. Ngai Tai ki Tamaki’s role is that of guardians and stewards. They are seeking to establish an ‘iwi conservancy’ over land and taonga species. They are based at Umupuia, just south of Maraetai, on the shores of the Hauraki Gulf. Yet they claim an area of interest, and therefore influence, that stretches from north of Auckland, down to Tauranga, including the whole of the Coromandel Peninsula; much of the Manukau Harbour in the west, and out past Gt. Barrier Island in the east, as shown below. Continue reading

‘Partnership’ - a way of heading off costly litigation?

Last month we reported on the Horizons Regional Council vote to create a committee of councillors and iwi leaders to come up with strategies for managing Manawatū waterways. Continue reading

Auckland Plan 2050 Adopted – With The Anti-Democratic Provisions

The Auckland Plan 2050, the long-term strategy for Auckland’s growth and development, and which provides a framework to inform decisions, has been adopted by Auckland Council. Continue reading

Implementation of Treaty settlements creating significant cost pressures

The Waikato Regional Council’s draft submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Local Government Funding and Financing reveals that the implementation of Treaty of Waitangi settlements creates significant cost pressures for Council. The submission states that “the Council wishes to work with its iwi partners in partnership but notes that the costs to do so is significant to its ratepayers”. Continue reading

Hastings District Council joins the Hall of Shame

A big thank you to those who contacted Hasting District councillors to encourage them to vote against the proposal to enable four members of the Maori Joint Committee to sit and vote on the council’s four standing committees. Unfortunately, enough councillors (10-4) felt able to turn their back on democracy by appointing unelected Maori to all committees.  Continue reading

Good News - designated seats for Ngāi Tahu voted down

New Zealand First has scuppered Labour's bid to give Ngāi Tahu permanent seats on the Canterbury Regional Council, saying its special treatment for Māori. Shane Jones acknowledged the party's long-held position against separate seats for Māori on local body councils. Continue reading

Auckland Council’s ‘Our Water Future’ - Remember to have your say

Auckland Council recently released a discussion document on developing ‘a water strategy to ensure a secure, sustainable, and healthy future for water in Auckland’. We covered this issue in the March update, but to briefly recap, as to the advancement of a co-governance agenda, concerns centre on the following statements: Continue reading

The Waikato District Council Blueprint Project

It appears every act of special entitlement is simply used as a stepping stone to further power. We see an example of this in the Waikato District Council’s Blueprint project, with its pitch to build on the Joint Management Agreements and other agreements with iwi, and the proposal to appoint a ‘Maori Partnership Manager’ “to sit with the CE group, which will, appropriately, facilitate a “chief to chief” relationship” – with the assistance of an operational support person. There are only a few days left to have provide feedback. Go online to have your say by 5pm Monday 8 April. Continue reading