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The role of the Commission

The Local Government Commission is an independent body established by legislation.

It is part of the independent machinery of government which helps to uphold the principles of the electoral system by providing or protecting:

  • fair and effective representation for individuals and communities;
  • reasonable and equal opportunities for voters and candidates; and
  • public confidence and understanding of electoral processes.

The Commission’s main role is to make decisions on the structure of local authorities and their electoral representation.

There are 78 local authorities in New Zealand. There are 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities.

A territorial authority can be a city council, a district council, or a unitary authority. A unitary authority is a territorial authority with the additional powers of a regional council. New Zealand has six unitary authorities: the largest is Auckland Council with a population of 1.4 million (2013 census); the smallest is Chatham Islands Council with a population of 600.

The Commission can decide representation arrangements for councils at each triennial election. It can make boundary changes, transfer responsibilities between local authorities, or recommend the creation, abolition or union of local authorities.

The Commission is effectively a permanent Commission of Inquiry into local government reform. It has three members, appointed by the Minister of Local Government, and a small team of support staff.

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.