Magazine article Public Sector

Intergovernmental Collaboration: Why Central and Local Government Need to Work Together for New Zealand to Prosper

Magazine article Public Sector

Intergovernmental Collaboration: Why Central and Local Government Need to Work Together for New Zealand to Prosper

Article excerpt

In unitary states like New Zealand, central and local government are creatures of Parliament, one established to govern the nation, the other to govern our regions, cities and towns. Many responsibilities are quite unique to each sphere of government, for example, councils have little to say about foreign policy or defence commitments, while central government tends to stay out of decisions about the location of playgrounds.

There are, however, an increasing number of issues of mutual interest and concern, for example, water quality, youth employment and our ageing demographics. Many of these challenges are what are known as wicked issues, that is, issues that cannot be addressed by a single agency working alone. Addressing them requires commitment from both spheres of government, although it is not a new challenge.

Thirty years ago the New Zealand Planning Council published a research paper on the relationship between central and local government. Its title Paternalism or Partnership cleverly summarises the challenge local government systems all around the world face when seeking to build relationships with governments at the national or federal level. It also highlights Local Government New Zealand's objective to build a partnership with central government - a partnership based on recognition of the important role councils play in local and national development, as well as mutual respect for the quality of their performance in that role.

How does the relationship work?

The relationship with central government is fundamental to our current business plan and occurs on a number of levels. On one hand, we regularly meet with ministers and senior officials in a variety of contexts to discuss proposed policies and regulations, as well as to provide information on the views and opinions of our members. On the other hand, we are working with councils to lead the sector and show that local government is committed to lifting its value.

One of our most important forms of engagement with central government is the Central Local Government Forum that occurs annually. Operating since 2000, the forum brings together relevant Cabinet ministers and LGNZ's National Council for a half-day discussion on current and future issues of joint interest. The forum, which is jointly chaired by the prime minister and myself, as LGNZ's president, provides an opportunity for frank discussion and a place to hammer out an agreed plan of action. …

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