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Local Government Reform

Image for the Local Government Reform page.
This page contains information about local government reform in Northland.
Updated: 17/12/2015 12:24 p.m.

On 9 June 2015 the Local Government Commission announced that it had decided not to proceed with its draft proposal for a single unitary authority in Northland. 

During consultation Northlanders indicated that some change in local government could ensure more effective and efficient decision making across the region. Since the draft proposal was released, Northland councils have been working together on initiatives to provide more effective services to our communities. The Commission plans to return to Northland to work with councils, iwi and the wider community with the aim of reaching sufficient consensus on any changes required and the best form of local government in Northland.

As required under the Local Government Act, if that consultation process results in new options for reform with community support the Commission would then prepare new draft proposals for wider consultation. These would be subject to the requirements of the Local Government Act.

Amalgamation Decisions Press Release Local Government Commission website. Opens in a new window.  


In March 2012, the Government released a discussion document called 'Better Local Government' which foreshadowed changes it wanted to see within the local government sector.

In addition, amendments to the Local Government Act 2002 came into effect on 5 December 2012 which made it easier for councils and communities to prepare and initiate proposals for reorganisation of boundaries and structures to the Local Government Commission.

What is local government reorganisation

Local government reorganisation means changes to the structure of local authorities. It could be changes to boundaries; the creation of a new council; the union of councils; the abolition of a council; or the transfer of functions and duties from one council to another.

There are six unitary authorities in New Zealand. Other local authorities, including Northland, work under a two tier framework of regional and district/city councils which have separate regulatory and planning responsibilities and provide different services. Reorganisation involves taking another look at these structures.

Before the Commission makes any recommendation for change, it must be satisfied that a new structure would promote good local government. Good local government is defined in law. It must enable democratic local decision-making by and on behalf of communities.

It must meet current and future needs for good-quality local infrastructure, public services and regulatory functions. The infrastructure, services and functions must be efficient, effective, and appropriate now and into the future.

Good local government is also expected to produce efficiencies and cost savings. It must contribute to productivity improvements for local authorities, households and businesses. It must lead to simplified planning processes.

The legislation governing reorganisation of local authorities is Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002. It was changed significantly in late 2012. The changes enable any individual or group to apply for reorganisation.

An application is expected to explain what the changes are designed to achieve. It must describe the improvements that would result. It must demonstrate that there is community support for change.

The process

In summary, the process for local government reorganisations under the Local Government Act 2002 is:

  • Individuals, organisations or the Minister of Local Government can apply to the Commission for reorganisation of local government

  • The Commission assesses whether there is evidence of community support for local government reorganisation

  • If accepted, there is public notification of the application, including a call for alternative applications

  • The Commission identifies options for change, chooses a preferred option and develops a draft proposal

  • The draft proposal is subject to consultation including submissions and a series of hearings

  • If the Commission decides to proceed it issues a final proposal. Otherwise it can choose to end the process, or identify a new draft proposal for consultation

  • If requested by the community a poll on the final proposal is held

  • If no poll is requested, or the poll shows support for the proposal, the reorganisation scheme is implemented.

The Local Government Commission had been considering a local government application made by the Far North District Council under the Local Government Act 2002.  The Commission prepared a draft proposal for reorganisation, received submissions on the proposal and held hearings in the region.

The Commission’s ability to return to communities after submissions and hearings and seek other options for change is provided for in clause 21 in schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002.

Reorganisation Process Diagram [456kb] Opens in a new window.

Reorganisation Process (Local Government Commission website) Opens in a new window.


The Commission released its draft proposal for a single unitary authority on 12 November 2013. The submission period closed on 21 February 2014. Hearings were conducted throughout Northland in April of that year.

The Commission received a total of 1,894 submissions on the draft proposal. There was significant opposition to the draft proposal as shown below:

  • 142 (7.50%) supported the proposal to some degree, including one submission with a petition attached signed by 283 people

  • 1710 (90.28%) opposed the proposal, including 348 submissions on a standard form

  • 42 (2.22%) were neutral on the proposal or they focused on particular aspects and did not specify their overall position.

On 9 June 2015 the Local Government Commission announced that it had decided not to proceed with the draft proposal for a single unitary authority in Northland. 

More information, including a sumary of submissions on the draft proposal for reorganisation of Local Government in Northland, can be read on the Local Government Commission website page below.

Summary of Submissions (Local Government Commission website) Opens in a new window.

Further information

Further information on Local Government Reform, including frequently asked questions, can be found on the Local Government Commission website.

Local Government Commission Opens in a new window.

Questions and Answers on Northland Reorganisation [115kb] Opens in a new window.


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