Communicating with local government
Local government relationships
While central government is mainly concerned with national issues, local government (which includes regional, city and district councils) has a local or regional focus. Local government has a responsibility for community well-being, which covers social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects. However, everything that local government does is within the legislative framework established and maintained by Parliament.
Ways of having your say
There are different ways that you can have your say on local government matters. These include:
- making a submission on things such as:
- a council plan (including the long term plan or annual plan)
- publicly notified resource consents
- council consultation processes
- other proposals
- official information requests (the same process as detailed for central government)
- attending public council meetings, and
- direct lobbying.
Tip: For more information on participating in local government see:
Local authority planning
Under the Local Government Act 2002, local authorities must:
- undertake a robust planning process and
- prepare Long Term Plans (LTPs) every three years, and annual plans in the other two years.
Long-Term Plans (LTP)
The LTP is the key long term planning tool for councils and it sets out a council's priorities in the medium to long term.
The LTP is the primary planning document against which annual plans and annual reports are considered and against which communities can gauge whether or not councils are on track in terms of achieving the aims outlined through the community outcomes processes. Every three years, citizens have the opportunity to express their views on the LTP.
The annual plan process focuses on year-to-year budgets. Councils prepare an annual plan in each of the two years between LTP reviews, and set out what the council plans to do in the next 12 months to move towards achieving its goals. These plans are adopted before the commencement of the financial year in July, following a submission process.
The annual report tells the community whether the council has done what the LTP said the council intended to do. The report also provides details of what has been spent, as well as indicating what progress the council has made towards achieving its goals. Annual reports must be adopted by 31 October each year.
The submission procedures involved, and the relevant forms to be completed, are set out on your local council's website. Often there are online forms available on which to make your submission e.g. on publicly notified applications for resource consent. There may also be online survey forms available for other circumstances.
Tip: Details of all local council websites are available from: http://www.localcouncils.govt.nz/
Attending public council meetings
Anyone can attend any public meetings of the council or its committees. Councils meet as regularly as they consider appropriate for the issues facing their communities. They publish a monthly schedule of their ordinary council and committee meetings. These are usually found on the council's website or in the public notices of local newspapers. The public can be excluded from public meetings in certain circumstances.
- To lobby council officers, use much the same process as for a local MP.
- Make a preliminary visit to a council meeting to see who is most likely to be effective in your situation, or to hear a debate about the subject of your concern.
- Do some research to find out who is taking an active interest in the community and what position or opinion they already hold.
Tip: Most council's include copies of proposals currently out for consultation and the relevant consultation procedures for having your say on their website, or they are available from the council offices. For contact details visit: http://www.localcouncils.govt.nz .
Monitoring of local government performance
It is useful to know that there are a number of central government agencies involved in monitoring local government's performance, including the handling of complaints about the activities and operation of local government. For example:
- The Department of Internal Affairs provides information about local government to Ministers, council's and the public.
- The Office of the Ombudsmen will investigate complaints against local authorities if someone thinks they have been treated unfairly by a local authority.
- The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment considers complaints from people about a local authority in terms of any decision it has made relating to environmental issues.
Tip: Refer to the respective websites of these central government agencies for further information on how to get involved in their monitoring procedures: