Rhetoric or Reality? Recasting Local Government's Purpose and Role
(2015) 26 New Zealand Universities Law Review 895
11 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2017
Date Written: December 1, 2015
An amendment in 2012 changed the purpose of local government in New Zealand from the promotion of community well-beings to the provision of local infrastructure, local public services and regulatory functions. This change, enacted by the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Act 2012 , was heralded by the government as a move to “refocus” the purpose of local government; the reform would ensure local authorities concentrate on delivering those services that were most appropriately undertaken by local government. Potential targets for this rationalisation were events like flower shows and sports car races, economic development and other commercial ventures, along with measures with a social or welfare focus such as educational goals and community identity initiatives.
But did the amendment actually achieve this? In this legislative note, I conclude that it did not. A careful analysis of the legislative text, along with the related parliamentary and other law reform material, shows that the reforms were strong on rhetoric but in reality changed little. Although the new language is ambiguous, the better view is that local government continues to have a broad mandate. Activities previously justified in the name of the promotion of community well-beings will generally still be able to be undertaken under the ambit of the recast purpose.
Keywords: Local government; sub-national government; judicial review; ultra vires; jurisdiction; purpose; role; New Zealand
JEL Classification: K10;
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation