Reports and Projects

Local government research

BY The Policy Observatory

The Policy Observatory has hosted a number of papers on aspects of local government in New Zealand, from evaluating the Auckland Council amalgamation to questioning the balance between central and local government. This page collates those papers, and is divided into two groups: reports and other writings that are longer; and Briefing Papers from our website

Your Place 2019

In conjunction with the Sunday Star-Times and, AUT researchers have analysed and commented on the Your Place 2019 survey.

Your Place 2019 was an opt-in survey, posted on the website. Responses from 8200 people were weighted to bring it more into line with census proportions.

The articles based on Your Place 2019 can be found here

Reports and papers

Local government role and autonomy: Some additional perspective. (February 2019)

By David Shand.

2019 is a big year for local government with elections in October and a Productivity Commission inquiry into local government funding and financing due to report back in November. Local Government New Zealand and the New Zealand Initiative are also running a campaign on ‘localism’, calling for the decentralisation of decision making. In this context, David Shand, former Chair of the 2007 Rates Inquiry and member of the 2008-9 Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, has written a short paper on two current topics: centralisation; and the purpose of local government (the core services versus well-being debate). Shand points out the one area where local government has high levels of autonomy – financial policies and budget decisions – and he argues this autonomy should be protected.

To enshrine and define local government once and for all. (November 2018)

By Christine Rose.

Former local body politician Christine Rose writes about how local government’s focus is strongly mandated by central government – so what does the change of government last year mean? Will there be more autonomy for local government?

Strengthening local voices. (October 2018)

By Jean Drage.

Local government elections will be held in October 2019. If trends of previous years hold, turnout will be low. What can be done to encourage more engagement with local body democracy? Jean Drage writes about how ‘having a say’ in local government in New Zealand has declined in recent years: Councils have become more managerial and corporate, decision-making less democratic, and the number of elected representatives per capita has declined. Jean writes about the growing disconnect between councils and their communities and identifies areas in need of change. Her report follows on from Mike Reid’s February report,  Saving local democracy: An agenda for the new government.

Saving local democracy: An agenda for the new government. (February 2018)

By Mike Reid.

Local government expert Dr Mike Reid has written a report for The Policy Observatory called  Saving local democracy: An agenda for the new government. Mike argues that central government policy on local government needs urgent reform to reverse anti-democratic policies of the previous government. He advocates for the return of decision-making about local issues to local communities.

The governance of Auckland: 5 years on. (May 2016)

By Ian Shirley et al.

Written in 2016, this report looks at the reasons for creating the unitary Auckland Council and asks whether the new structure has solved the problems arising from the previous council structure. The report notes mixed results, with one key goal being met while the other has not. Five years on, the new design was very much a work in progress.

Briefing Papers

The Policy Observatory’s Briefing Papers website has run short, accessible papers on public policy topics since 2014. A number of these have been on aspects of local government research, and are listed here with the latest first. If you would like Briefing Papers direct to your email inbox, you can subscribe on a desktop computer. Go to and fill in your details.

Limits to growth? (September 2017)

By Charles Crothers

AUT Emeritus Professor Charles Crothers looks at the complexities and delicacies of population policies. Auckland’s population is projected to continue growing at a high rate, but what do Aucklanders think?

Auckland deserves better (August 2017)

By Ian Shirley

Emeritus Professor Ian Shirley, a member of the Metropolitan Auckland Project, writes about the difficulty in solving Auckland’s many problems within a neoliberal economic framework.

Power imbalances in local vs central government (August 2017)

By Christine Rose

The most important relationship Auckland Council has is with central government, but it is not an equal relationship. Christine Rose writes about the subservient relationship of local to central government in New Zealand.

Pale, male and middle-aged: Auckland Council’s lack of diversity (November 2016)

By Karen Webster.

AUT researcher Karen Webster presents research that asks whether the age, gender and ethnicity of candidates in the local elections match the diversity of Auckland as a whole?

Subjective assessments of the Super City (November 2016)

By Charles Crothers

Charles Crothers reports on survey research into what Aucklanders think of the Super City, revealing a high level of satisfaction with life in Auckland and enjoyment of council provided services – but low levels of support for many aspects of the Council.

No silver bullet: Online voting and local elections (October 2016)

By Julienne Molineaux

Low turnout at the 2016 local government elections raised the question of whether online voting would help turnout. Julienne Molineaux argues turnout issues for local elections go way deeper than addressing the mode of voting.

The South Auckland experience of the Super City (August 2016)

By Ben Ross

How is South Auckland faring under the Super City? It’s a mixed report card, writes Ben Ross, which includes differences between Papakura and Manukau.

The impact of the Auckland model on local government reform (December 2015)

By Mike Reid

How ideas and concepts tried out in the Auckland local government area, including Mayoral powers, are impacting on local government across the country.

Living on the edge: Rural views of the Super City (November 2015)

By Christine Rose

How are Rodney and Franklin faring in the new Auckland? A loss of voice but also the benefit of some infrastructure investment.

What is ‘Auckland’ anyway? (November 2015)

By Grant Duncan

A potted history of the formation of ‘Auckland’ as a local government entity, and its many mergers to eventually create the one unitary council.

Local government (August 2014)

By Christine Cheyne

Christine Cheyne writes about the health of local democracy, where the problems lie and what might be done to fix it. While there has been some change since this was penned in 2014, much has not.

Local government research