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Local government reorganisation


Local government reorganisation means changes to the structure or the responsibilities of local authorities and local boards. It could involve one or more of the following:

  • the alteration to boundaries of districts or regions
  • the union of districts or regions
  • the constitution of a new district or region and a council(s) for that area
  • the abolition of a district or region and the council(s) for that area
  • the transfer of responsibilities between councils
  • the establishment of joint committees
  • the establishment, alteration of boundaries, or abolition of local boards.

A two-tier local authority structure, comprising a regional council and a district/city council for an area, covers most of New Zealand. However, some areas have unitary authorities which are responsible for both regional council and district/city council functions. Unitary authorities are in place for Auckland, Gisborne, Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman. In addition, the Chatham Islands Council is also effectively a unitary authority.

Currently there are 11 regional councils and 67 district/city councils including unitary authorities.

Many district/city councils have community boards to represent particular local communities within their area. Auckland has a different structure of local boards which formally share some decision-making with the governing body (mayor and councillors) of Auckland Council.

Reorganisation involves considering possible changes to council structures and/or their responsibilities, and changes either to the Auckland local boards or the establishment of local boards in other areas covered by unitary authorities. The establishment of joint committees between councils or other public bodies also comes within the definition of local government reorganisation.

The purpose of local government reorganisation is to promote good local government by enabling and facilitating improvements to local governance. This purpose, set out in the Local Government Act 2002 (Legislation website), along with the detailed reorganisation process requirements set out in Schedule 3 of the Act (Legislation website), were amended in 2019.

An outline of the new reorganisation process is set out below. More detailed information, including the Schedule 3 requirements, is provided in guidelines prepared by the Commission with links below. These should be referred to if you are considering possible local government reorganisation for your area.

How is reorganisation initiated?

Reorganisation can be considered as the result of either a reorganisation initiative or a request for a reorganisation investigation.

A reorganisation initiative is a request for the Commission to consider a specific reorganisation proposal, such as the union of two districts or a boundary alteration. An investigation request, on the other hand, is more general in nature relating to an issue, problem or opportunity with local government arrangements in an area without identifying a specific proposed change.

Who may initiate it?

Reorganisation initiatives can be proposed and investigations requested by:

  • one or more affected local authorities
  • a group of at least 10% of electors of an area
  • the Minister of Local Government.

Are there particular information requirements?

Yes, there are particular content requirements for both reorganisation initiatives and investigation requests. These include the name and address of the person submitting the initiative or request; a map or other identification of the area; the type of change being sought or issue/problem/opportunity to be addressed. If the initiative or request is submitted by a group of electors, there must be evidence that the group comprises 10% of electors of the affected area.

It is recommended that anyone considering submitting a reorganisation initiative or requesting a reorganisation investigation should, after reading the Commission’s guidelines (see link below), contact Commission officers who will be able to provide further advice on the particular requirements.

Guidelines relating to reorganisation initiatives and reorganisation investigations (PDF, 282KB)

What happens next?

If the initiative or investigation request is submitted by a group of electors, the Commission will first confirm that the request comprises at least 10% of the electors of the affected area. If it does not comprise 10%, the Commission is not able to undertake an investigation.

The Commission will then decide whether to undertake an investigation having regard to particular requirements including the potential scale and scope of improvements to local governance and services, and the potential costs, disruption and other negative effects on affected local authorities and their communities.

Reorganisation investigation process

After deciding to undertake an investigation, the Commission must then determine an investigation process and, following consultation, publish this in a process document. This document sets out such things as:

  • the affected area and affected local authorities
  • the procedure and timetable
  • key interested parties and how they will be engaged
  • how and when the public will be consulted.

In determining these matters and undertaking the investigation, the Commission must have regard to a number of principles including the extent and nature of public and stakeholder engagement during the process.

In assessing the desirability of options, the Commission must take into account how best to achieve certain matters including:

  • better fulfilment of the purpose of local government as set out in the legislation
  • effective responses to the opportunities, needs and circumstances of the affected area
  • enhanced effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of local government services
  • enhanced ability of local government to meet the changing needs of communities for governance and services into the future.

Reorganisation plan

During or at the completion of an investigation, the Commission may decide to adopt proposed changes by way of a reorganisation plan. In making this decision, the Commission must have regard to:

  • the scale of the potential benefits
  • the financial, disruption and opportunity costs of implementation
  • the risks and consequences of non-implementation
  • the effect on existing communities of interest
  • the degree and distribution of public support
  • the degree and distribution of public opposition.

The Commission must then give public notice of the reorganisation plan including details of where it may be inspected.

Further steps

Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act sets out further steps and requirements, following adoption of a reorganisation plan, relating to local government reorganisation. These include:

  • polls of electors applying to particular reorganisation plans
  • transition bodies for reorganisation plans
  • reorganisation implementation schemes.

The Commission will develop further guidance material relating to these.

Option of local authorities developing a reorganisation plan

Schedule 3 provides local authorities with the option of developing and adopting their own reorganisation plans and making application to the Commission for approval. The Commission will also provide guidance material on this option.

Current and previous applications, initiatives and investigation requests

In the menu on the left, under ‘Current initiatives and investigations’ you can see the initiatives and requests for investigation that the Local Government Commission is currently considering. (The three current items were all received prior to the change in legislation in 2019 and accordingly they began as “reorganisation applications” under the previous legislation.) Under ‘Previous applications’ you can see all previous applications and Commission determinations dating back to 1999.