Local Government New Zealand not concerned about councils ditching organisation

The head of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is shrugging off concerns about councils ditching the organisation. Three councils have already withdrawn their memberships this year.

Hundreds of local government officials have met in Christchurch this week - but the mayor of the biggest city was not there.

Mayors and councillors from all over the country, all in one room but not dancing to the same beat. And some not there to dance at all.

Three councils, Auckland, West Coast Regional and Kaipara District, all withdrew their memberships this year.

"We are not worried, we work with all the members, we listen to our members - we want members involved in decision-making and we are feeling pretty collectively strong," said LGNZ CEO Susan Freeman-Greene.

Last month a report into the future of local government made 17 recommendations including increased funding and support.

"I think there's a general acceptance that the current size and shape of local government across Aotearoa isn't sustainable for our future," said Selwyn District Mayor Sam Broughton.

Two years after pitching the now-redesigned Three Waters reform, central Government is still trying to sell it.

"Maintaining the status quo would result in a very significant rates imposition for far too many Kiwi households," Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said.

The theme of this year's conference is securing the future of local body politics. But for one mayor in particular, securing their own future has dominated their term.

Ben Bell was elected Gore District Mayor at just 23, before a fallout with CEO and councillors left him virtually friendless.

"I actually got two community board members to come along with me so it's been a fantastic opportunity for them," he said.

Gore CEO Stephen Parry also made it to the conference but he and Bell weren't side by side. The pair still need an intermediary to work together.

"That's something we're working through at the moment. It's a healing process for sure," Bell said.

Unity hard to find within councils - or between them.