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”.

The latest report from the Review Panel - THE REVIEW INTO THE FUTURE FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT – is currently open for submissions, “to help shape our final report and recommendations” ahead of the final report.

Here’s our chance to have a say - there are now only a few days left to make a submission. The closing date is Tuesday, 28 February 2023.

Please take the time to do so - just follow the directions on the submission page here.

You can provide feedback on one or more of the chapters in the report by answering set questions, and/or go to the final comments box and type your feedback directly. You also have the option of uploading a PDF or DOCX file if you would prefer.

That’s all there is too it.

Need help in formulating your response to the report? Please see below material that may help.

Despite the token references to democracy, the whole orientation of the review is to undermine true democracy. The Review Panel was required by then Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta to recommend ways to cement the concept of local government sharing authority and decision-making power with a group of unelected citizens classified as hapū/iwi/Māori. Doing so effectively creates a racialized local government. This is based on the much promoted but fabricated Treaty of Waitangi partnership between the Crown and Māori, the undefined principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the highly subjective “Māori world view”.

Below are some examples of passages from the Review Panel’s report that you might like to comment on. (N.B. The Democracy Action responses to the recommendations are in italics).

  • A Tiriti-based partnership between Māori and local government. (Chapter 3)
  • Authentic relationship with hapū/iwi and Māori means shifting towards a future where Māori are an integral part of local governance, and the relationship becomes a genuine, Tiriti-based partnership – enabling the meaningful exercise of rangatiratanga and a more culturally specific exercise of kāwanatanga by councils. This will likely require a new legislative framework for Te Tiriti in local governance, building specific arrangements for partnership and co-governance, and increasing local government and Māori capability and capacity to build and maintain a meaningful Tiriti-based relationship. (Chapter 1.4.1 p.37)
  • The system needs to ensure a more meaningful expression of rangatiratanga and a more culturally specific exercise of kāwanatanga by councils – with te ao Māori values reflected at all levels of the system. In some instances, this means Māori having a lead role in decision-making, or the design or delivery of local government functions or services. In others, such decisions will still need to be exercised collaboratively, or by local government via good quality engagement with Māori, but in all instances Māori citizens should be able to make culturally specific contributions to local governance. (Chapter 3.1).
  • That councils develop with hapū/iwi and significant Māori organisations within a local authority area, a partnership framework that complements existing co-governance arrangements by ensuring all groups in a council area are involved in local governance in a meaningful way. (Recommendation 7) 
  • That central government retain the Māori wards and constituencies mechanism (subject to amendment in current policy processes) but consider additional options that provide for a Tiriti-based partnership at the council table. (Recommendation 20. See also Chapter 7).
  • To promote innovative, strategic, and future-focused leadership, support and capacity building for elected members is recommended. With this in mind, the Panel is also exploring the merits of models for democracy that enable both capability-based and mana whenua appointments to supplement elected members. The Panel is interested in your feedback on this concept. (p.20)
  • Where Māori seek appointment to council committees, we (the Review Panel) think there should be an obligation on council to facilitate a conversation with all hapū/iwi and significant Māori organisations in the area about how this can best be achieved. Where the number of groups in the area is much greater than the number of seats that can be efficiently provided on a committee without it becoming unwieldy, we think it would be reasonable to expect Māori to provide tikanga- or whakapapa-based solutions as to how all groups’ interests can be represented by appointees. Once agreed by Māori, those arrangements should be put in place with full voting rights and remuneration where desired. (Chapter 3.6.3 p.97)

Democracy Action response: Embedding a Treaty partnership between Māori and local government results in giving away democratic power based on political equality in favour of iwi/Māori interests. Not only is increasing the power of unelected, unaccountable, and unchallengeable Māori persons across local government grossly undemocratic, it also discriminates against other citizens. This breaches section 19(1) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 – freedom from discrimination based on race”. 

The Review Panel Report also states:

  • We suggest that the existing mechanisms for providing Māori representation at council level are not sufficient and propose the potential to provide more direct representation for mana whenua and significant Kaupapa-based groups. (p.87)

Democracy Action response: “The unelected mana whenua representatives would not be able to be removed at the ballot box. Therefore, there would be no mechanism to enable accountability to the wider community”.

The Review Panel Report:

  • That central government leads an inclusive process to develop a new legislative framework for Tiriti-related provisions in the Local Government Act that drives a genuine partnership in the exercise of kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga in a local context and explicitly recognises te ao Māori values and conceptions of wellbeing. (Recommendation 6)
  • ……implementing the concept of differentiated liberal citizenship means we (the Review Panel) see te ao Māori values, tikanga, and mātauranga Māori as essential components of a future system of local governance. (Chapter 3, p.84)

Democracy Action response: “New Zealand is a multicultural nation. It is undemocratic and racist to recommend amendments to the Local Government Act to embed tribal/iwi/hapu governance of multicultural New Zealanders - without their agreement - through the exercise of undefined and unlimited kāwanatanga, rangatiratanga, and te ao Māori values. There could well be some positive examples showing healthy situations utilising te ao Māori values, but there is no proof that these undefined values (the nebulous Māori world view) are acceptable to other New Zealanders. Therefore, they should not underpin government decision-making without comprehensive definition, explanation, debate, and referenda.”

The Review Panel Report:

  • That central government explores a stronger statutory requirement on councils to foster Māori capacity to participate in local government. (Recommendation 9)
  • That local government leads the development of coordinated organisational and workforce development plans to enhance the capability of local government to partner and engage with Māori. (Recommendation 10)
  • That central government provides a transitional fund to subsidise the cost of building both Māori and council capability and capacity for a Tiriti-based partnership in local governance. (Recommendation 11 and Chapter 3)

Democracy Action response: “Extra resources and funds will be needed to bring about and support a Tiriti-based partnership. The Review Panel recommends that central government provides a transitional fund to subsidise the cost of building both Māori and council capability and capacity for the proposed partnership. After that, it appears it will be up to ratepayers to foot the bill. Furthermore, the demand for investment to promote “good quality engagement with Māori”, begs the question, how much would councils be expected to pay to bring this about to the satisfaction of all parties?”

The Review Panel Report:

  • That local government, in partnership with central government, explores funding and resources that enable and encourage councils to embed social/progressive procurement and supplier diversity as standard practice in local government with nationally supported organisational infrastructure and capability and capacity building (Chapter 5 and recommendation 14(c))

Democracy Action response: “It is not in ratepayers’ best interest that contracts be awarded on “social/progressive or diversity” criteria. Embedding social/progressive procurement and supplier diversity as standard practice in local government means using contractors and suppliers with a commitment to supporting wider outcomes - such as  social, economic, environmental, and cultural - therefore going beyond price considerations and recognised best practice procurement policies.

We contend that the government should be allocating supplier contracts based on professional specifications and independent assessments of supplier abilities and track records for effective delivery. Ratepayers do not expect councils to subsidise or build supplier capability.”

The Review Panel Report:

  • That central government provides a statutory obligation for councils to give due consideration to an agreed, local expression of tikanga whakahaere in their standing orders and engagement practices, and for chief executives to be required to promote the incorporation of tikanga in organisational systems. (Recommendation 5)

Democracy Action response: “There is no analysis, discussion, or debate about what the local expression of tikanga whakahaere means for local government and whether this would be an improvement on existing systems.”

These are just some examples of the radical recommendations promoted in this report. You do not have to go far into the 258 pages to find others.

We also touched on this issue in our November and December newsletters. See:


On the other hand, there are a handful of recommendations that you may find worthy of supporting, such as:

  • That local government adopts greater use of participatory democracy in local decision-making. (DA comment: recommend that the Swiss model is considered - a representative democracy with strong instruments of direct democracy).
  • That central and local government agree on arrangements and mechanisms for them to co-invest to meet community wellbeing priorities, and that central government makes funding provisions accordingly.
  • That central government expands its regulatory impact statement assessments to include the impacts on local government.
  • Civics education: enhanced civics education to enable young people to engage more effectively with local democratic processes.

Other issues you may also like to comment on

The Review Panel recommends that central government undertakes a review of the legislation to:

  1. adopt Single Transferrable Vote as the voting method for council elections. (Chapter 7.4.5)
  2. lower the eligible voting age in local body elections to the age of 16. (Chapter 7.4.6).
  3. provide for a 4-year local electoral term. (Chapter 7.6)

Democracy Action response: Such changes to the electoral system must be subject to binding referenda”.

The key issues of concern to most ratepayers, such as the provision of public services, are barely mentioned in this report. Instead, the Review Panel appears to be mired in identity politics and on a crusade to foist the Government’s separatist, race-based agenda on the people of New Zealand.

We trust the above information will help inform your submission. If you have any difficulties, message Susan at [email protected]


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

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 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


The integrity of our electoral system is critical to upholding our democratic system. However, the 2022 election exposed serious issues about the way we conduct local body elections. Continue reading

Proposed changes to our electoral system

The Ministry of Justice is currently reviewing our electoral law. The government-appointed Independent Electoral Review panel is inviting feedback on the future of our electoral system. Continue reading

Local body elections – backing democratic governance and political equality

Candidate nominations for this year's local body elections have closed, and campaigning for a place at the council table is well underway. Now is the time to ask the contenders the crucial questions – before casting our votes we need to know their intentions and their stance on issues of concern.  Continue reading

Urgent judicial review of discriminatory Rotorua Council Bill

“It is premature to declare victory over the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill”, writes Rotorua Councillor Reynold Macpherson.  “It has not been withdrawn, only ‘paused’. If you want to defend democracy against co-governance, please submit an Affidavit in Support of a private citizen’s application for a judicial review”. Continue reading

Locals campaign to restore democracy at Tauranga City Council

The Government has decided to extend the stay of Tauranga City Council’s commissioners for a further two-and-a-half years. The dissolution of the elected council in February 2021 was always meant to be a temporary emergency measure with full local democracy restored in 2022. However, the Wellington-appointed commissioners asked the Government to delay local elections for at least another year, which the Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, obligingly extended until July 2024. Continue reading

Rotorua Lakes Council pushing for Māori co-governance

The Rotorua Lakes Council no longer believes in one person one vote, each of equal value. Instead, it believes that if you are not Māori, your vote should be worth less. The Council is currently pursuing a law change to enable an undemocratic representation model to be implemented. The model it prefers would consist of three Māori ward seats, three general ward seats, and four at-large seats. However, adopting this arrangement would give the 19,791 citizens on the Māori roll 2.6 times the voting power of the 51,618 citizens on the general roll. Continue reading

Time to Vote - Local Body Elections 2019

Voting in local body elections is under way, with the poll closing noon 12 October. With the push for co-governance and partnership arrangements gathering speed, there’s a lot riding on our choices this election. The next three years will make a huge difference to our future. Continue reading

Vote for me! Local body elections 2019

The upcoming election gives us the opportunity to voice our opinions, to hold elected representatives to account, and to vote for what we believe in. So please take all opportunities to question those standing for office. You could also identify those candidates you can support and offer your help as they campaign. We at Democracy Action believe our representatives should be voted on merit, not race. As Gisborne Herald columnist, farmer, community worker, and heritage consultant Mr Clive Bibby writes in his article 'Diversity best achieved naturally'  “The majority of people do not judge by colour, religion, age, sex or disability. They judge you by what you believe in, what you hope to do, what you bring to the table, whether you will work hard for them and represent their voices at the council or health board table.”     Continue reading