Empowerment of local government in New Zealand: A new model for contemporary local-central relations?
Since 2000 intergovernmental relations in New Zealand have been evolving rapidly as a result of a significant shift in government policy discourse towards a strong central-local government partnership. New statutory provisions empowering local government to promote social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing have significant implications for the range of activities in which local authorities are engaged. In turn, this has consequences for the relationship between local government and central government. The effectiveness of the new empowerment and the prospects for further strengthening of the role of local government are critically examined. Despite some on-going tensions, and an inevitable mismatch in the balance of power between central and local government, it is argued that there is a discernible rebalancing of intergovernmental relations as a result of new legislation and central government policy settings which reflect a ‘localist turn’. On the basis of developments since 2000 it may be argued that the New Zealand system of local government is evolving away from the recognised ‘Anglo’ model. However, further consolidation is needed in the transformation of intergovernmental relations and mechanisms that will cement a more genuine central-local government partnership.