'Project Localism' wants councils to take the reins from Govt

A joint project calls for local government to be given more power.
A joint project calls for local government to be given more power. Photo credit: Getty

There are calls for local government to be given more power in an effort to make New Zealand politics less "centralised".

'Project Localism' was announced on Sunday as a joint ambition between Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) and think tank The New Zealand Initiative.

It aims to empower local councils to take the reins from Parliament and take greater responsibility for their communities, "putting people back in charge of politics and reinvigorating our democracy".

LGNZ President Dave Cull says both tiers of government need to work together, rather than the Beehive making decisions for the rest of the country in a phenomenon known as "centralisation".

"Centralised countries tend to be less wealthy and have lower standards of living," he says. 

"New Zealand is among the most centralised countries in the world. We should not expect central government in Wellington to be the best decision-maker for every local problem.

"Communities often know best what they need."

Mr Cull says a shift toward localism will benefit everyone, giving citizens, iwi, businesses and community groups more of a voice.

"This means that services will be more responsive, better focused on local issues and delivered in a manner which is consistent with local values and cultures."

Dr Oliver Hartwich, executive director of the New Zealand Initiative, echoes the need for structural change in the country's political system.

"After more than a century of centralism, New Zealand needs to go local. Councils and communities must be able to make their own decisions about their future."

A reference group for 'Project Localism' will review evidence and prepare a draft discussion paper at the end of the year.

The paper will be launched at the LGNZ Conference in July 2019, and the 'Localism Proposal' will be published in March 2020.