Institutional Barriers to Developing Community Indicators in New Zealand: A Preliminary Assessment

Ali Memon
Karen Johnston


There has been enormous activity in many countries and by international agencies during the last few decades to develop indicators to measure trends in different attributes of the environment, including indicators for community wellbeing and for sustainable development. Identifying appropriate indicators of economic, social, environmental, cultural and democratic progress across local government boundaries, as a basis for a strategy to enhance community governance, and as part of a national system of sustainability indicators, is a challenging task. An important dimension that is implicit rather than explicit in the current literature is the significance of institutional barriers to developing indicators. Informed by recent New Zealand experiences, our objective in this paper is to examine those institutional barriers within the context of achieving the wider objectives of the New Zealand Local Government Act 2002 to strengthen participatory democracy and community governance, and the ‘whole-of-government’ sustainable development paradigm that underpins it. We argue that the significance of undertaking the task of indicator development in a collaborative and participatory as well as technically satisfactory manner should not be under-estimated.

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