This is the final report in a New Zealand Initiative series on local government. It aims to restore accountability, transparency and community responsibility to local government. We propose doing this by setting clear roles for each tier of government, with limits on the ability of either party to act beyond these limits, except where agreed to beforehand or in extreme circumstances to prevent duplication of tasks. Most developed countries do this through a constitutional process, and while there is merit in pursuing this process in New Zealand, the time required to do so may not provide meaningful relief to the local government problem any time soon. Instead we propose a quasi-constitutional separation of powers to achieve much the same end. This will require change on both sides. For central government, it will mean reforming the Local Government Act and ceding full responsibility over local matters to councils.
The key findings from this report provide a practical means of making local government more accountable and transparent to communities. The aim is to make New Zealand better off. Drawing clear lines of responsibility will go a long way to fixing the relationship between local and central government. In effect, it is a framework for both parties to meet each other half way.