Stronger communities? Changing prospects for community-led strategic planning in New Zealand
New Zealand’s Local Government Act 2002 ushered in a new phase in local government, a phase that is best characterised by the term ‘empowerment’. Not only were councils empowered to promote social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being, in contrast with previous more prescriptive legislation, but citizens were empowered to engage in community-led strategic planning. In many respects the new statute reflected contemporary international public management trends in which governance is increasingly being conducted via networks of public and private actors. However, with the change of government from a centre-left Labour-led coalition to a centre-right National-led government following the November 2008 general election, it is less certain that local government and communities will continue to experience a strengthening of the pluralisation of governance that has been a feature of the past decade. This article argues that the potential disempowerment of local government, and possible attenuation of community-led strategic planning in New Zealand, comes at a time when the momentum for devolution to local government and other communities is increasing elsewhere.