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Inaugural extensive survey of over 3000 citizens and businesses scores New Zealand's councils just 29 out of 100 on reputation

Inaugural extensive survey of over 3000 citizens and businesses scores New Zealand's councils just 29 out of 100 on reputation

New Zealand's local government has collectively scored just 29 out of 100 in terms of overall reputation in an inaugural, nationwide, comprehensive survey.

The New Zealand Local Government Survey of close to 3000 citizens and businesses across New Zealand was conducted last year by research firm Colmar Brunton.

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said: "It is clear from this inaugural Survey that New Zealanders are seeking stronger leadership and performance than what they perceive us to currently provide. This gives us the mandate to lift the performance and perceptions of local government."

It is planned that the survey will be annual, allowing LGNZ to measure improvement.

Yule said that looking at international local government surveys, New Zealand local government "is rated similarly to countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia – this however provides little comfort".

He said it was clear that local government needed to improve, particularly in three broad areas:

  • performance of local government, particularly governance, managing finances, making good spending decisions and delivering value for money;
  • strengthening local leadership, particularly leadership of mayors and councillors and strategies for developing greater prosperity and wellbeing of communities; and
  • communication and interaction.

"Implicit in all three areas is ensuring stronger interaction with communities and businesses across New Zealand on the infrastructure, services and issues that matter locally. Better collaboration and communication will mean greater understanding of the breadth, value and quality of local government services. That will lead to a stronger sector and council performance and, over time, an improved awareness of the work local government does for its communities," Yule said.

The 29 out of 100 score for overall reputation was actually comprised from the three areas Yule referred to above. Local government scored 28 out of 100 for performance, 26 out of 100 for local leadership and 32 out of 100 for communication and interaction.

LGNZ says it and its membership councils are now embarking on "a significant programme of work to deliver improved performance and heighten the value that is delivered to communities by local governments across New Zealand". 

LGNZ will now be working with councils across New Zealand on six priority areas: 

  1. governance, leadership and strategy;
  2. financial decision-making and transparency;
  3. asset management and infrastructure;
  4. engaging with business;
  5. communicating and engaging with public; and
  6. building a stronger relationship with central government.

Each of these areas is being detailed in the new programme of work that LGNZ is currently scoping, and will include metrics and benchmarks that enable councils to demonstrate and deliver high performance, LGNZ said.

“How well local government performs impacts on how well communities and citizens prosper and succeed,” Yule said.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


I think that 2.9% would apply in those hugely over rated suburbs where the shock of excessive rates is more than some people can stomach.

Not every one is a millionaire House owner, with cash to spare. Poor people inhabit houses in what are now expensive suburbs. Rates can be a large portion of a pensioners or unemployed persons out goings, for example.

Some have had their incomes dealt a severe blow, by lots of the Councils, who can spend, spend. spend, like a robbers dog.


These 'poor' people with million dollar houses can always get reverse equity mortgages - they can use some of that equity they have had gifted to them to pay for the rates they can no longer afford.

Your idea of bad spending might be another's idea of good spending. Maybe you don't use that new bus service or that new shared space in the city, but maybe a skilled professional does. If the council doesn't spend on those areas and those people leave, you could end up with an even higher rates bill.


I believe those reverse equity tools available from LG/councils are only applicable to retirees (i.e., those over 65). There are also Rates Rebates for pensioners and other low income households;

You would be very surprised how many low income households that would likely qualify but don't apply.

Auckland Council wanted to introduce a more appropriate user-pay approach to transport funding (road tolls and/or regional petrol tax) but the Government with a big G stopped them.

So they went with the most regressive form of taxation - a fixed charge per property/unit .. such a tax has no regard for ability to pay or use (of the transport network).


not just pensioners or unemployed but also huge numbers of working class, middle income, low income, high income but high debt (eg student loans), who have the houses but can't afford to upskill or take time out of their work commitments to develop themselves or NZ. Including families with younger children.


The salaried staff will say yippee, now we can justify more highly paid staff and charge the ratepayers more.

What needs to be done is 3 things:
1. to establish a formal definition of "consultation" with the ratepayers that involves much more control for the ratepayers than the present system of a many paged woolly sounding proposal, rigged answering options, and next to no time for replies. This is exacerbated by the immediate discounting of responses that use a pre-written 'form ' from ratepayer organisations (the only way of making it easy for busy voters), and then simply saying we consulted and we are proceeding.

2. The enhanced definition needs to be added formally to the Local Government Act 2002

3. The provisions in the LGA (2002) that allow for protected transactions whereby banks/lenders should be repealed. Protected transactions are totally protected from subsequent non-payment even if the Council acts illegally in the consultation process. All the Council or an officer of the council has to do is make a declaration that the Council has complied with the LGA to create a protected transaction and it does not matter if the declaration has been made fraudulently. Removal of this provision would make lenders do due diligence.

This is written from the experience of the Mangawhai Community with the Kaipara District Council's disastrous waster water scheme. Illegality established in the High Court has not been yet found to negate the ratepayers from footing the cost. Court of Appeal in August. Watch this space!!!


modern "consultation" is just them telling you want they are going to do, and possibly throwing in a few straw man projects for them to feel like they have input.


Winston Peters had the answer - central government should step up to the plate and pay (wipe the related debt from the council's books). .After all, local government is a 'creature of statute' - if the statute doesn't adequately protect the public and the CG audit mechanisms for LG entities so spectacularly failed the public - then its central government's fault. Plain and simple.

Hope the court sees it that way. - but shame it has to go to the judiciary. Good luck.


Would be interested in a breakdown of big vs small councils and big debt vs small debt.
I live in a small council small debt and although the council may seem to be all sorts of bad words at times I do think they are doing a pretty good job with very little central government help and encouragement and without setting the next generation up with a massive debt. All round our best bet appears to be the creation of a usable harbour to facilitate the growth in aquaculture, and the council both local and regional have pushed their side of the bargain but this government would happily see the regions rot.


See my small contribution to CCC's LTP here:

The performance of TLA's is woeful, partly for the reasons I note in my leetle rant. And I see, without surprise, that Larry Fool is still rabbiting on about "developing greater prosperity and wellbeing".

'Wellbeing' is one of the infamous Four Wellbeings, replaced in 2012. So much for staying up with the legislative play. Service is the new objective, as I make clear in the dissertation.

'Prosperity' is achieved Despite local government in many cases, not Because of it. Once ya moves past the three waters, roads and traffic management, a Council's contribution to 'prosperity' is achieved more by Not doing stuff.....and thus keeping the land-tax burden down.


Where to start?

We have spilt much electrons over the years on this very topic you and I. And it remains as depressing as ever to see that nothing ever changes about LGNZ's deep and utter state of denial.

Will gather a few thoughts together. If it doesn't put me into a coma of despair I will jot them down.


what do you mean their performance is woeful? All the paperwork is correctly filed and all the top members of the staff received their positive performance appraisals (and salary packages). You would be happy if your business performed as well.....


Judging by the number of leaf blowers employed in my little town, it is small wonder our rates and Council Workers are growing as fast as the trees and the number of Councillors per head of population can stipulate.. more growth is forever needed.

But the drains get blocked, so floods occur...

Tis why we need more and more imports to feed the frenzy, use more crap, therefore more drainage, therefore more diggers. Therefore more money, to sustain the never ending mantra, espoused by Government edict.

Dig yer blighters, dig deep, we want to prosper. Lets flood the market. We need more people,

And so they did, infill housing...,,little run off.. Poor drainage. Leaves blocking the drains. Nowhere for the drains on our society to actually do our they up the ante..and employed more leaf blowers.

Grow, grow you burghers...but leaf me out of it. I actually compost mine.

Just one small example...I could write a book. Lucky for you lot..I do not charge by the word.

No laughing matter...Just ask Wellington...about their drains, run-off, daft Burghers don't even know that water runs Down Hill.

Till it hits em.


question I keep asking is how come the flooding didn't happen 40 years ago, when there weren't any such thing as a leafblower, yet there were more trees, and much lower wages and lower population.

Now population and prices are hugely higher, yet we can afford less.... and unlike 40 years ago my roofer needs expensive training wheel scaffolding



We never had such what I call "Over-heads'" We had people who knew what was needed, and did it without any bidding. In fact bidding for the task is now almost mandatory as is double the staff to manage it...badly.

In fact over managed, badly.

Plus more councilors than you can imagine, plus Building Regulation and Plundering Agendas, plus lieu days, Maternity leave, Paternity Leave, Civic Ceremonies, Civic Leaders, Rates Assessment Brigades, Leaky Homes deny-ability Factors, Planners and other spanners in the Works Brigades.

What kills most tasks...the red tape, the Elf and Safety claws as you allude to, the debt ratio, the too many cooks, the round table conference discussions, the jobsworth brigade, the total cost for the extra overheads, including fancy Council Offices and over paid mayors and Civic bleeders giving themselves a pay-rise out of increased debt is appalling.

The interest alone that they owe for ever and ever compounding the problem in no uncertain terms is mind blowing. Plus their wages expansion, plus extortionate fees, no wonder I am almost insane.

Doubling up your costs and mine

Two houses being built by someone I know, 18 months and an extra 50K later, on top of all previous costs and charges indicated, simple planning authority granted...NUTS....and it is not just me who said so.

But then you have an idea of the extra 'Overheads' for farming.. and they have almost the monopoly...on self interest as well in addition...go figure!.

I know...I have seen you re-count em..

But all these issues are mostly simple..but they stop things happening. Not facilitate things. Which is what they are supposed to be there for.


Local government can count themselves lucky to have scored 29%.

Speaking as a former local government senior manager I am confident this new-found appetite for self-awareness and improvement will not last more than a couple of years. Why? Because 15 years ago LGNZ issued a strategic issues paper in which they identified lack of connection with their communities as one of the most important problems they faced. 15 years have passed with no action taken and that strategic issues paper probably has about 6 inches of dust on it.

So here is the nub of the problem: local government has no credibility. They love making promises and they love writing wordy strategies and action plans. But they actually achieve very little concrete that wouldn't have happened anyway.

So look carefully at what Yule is saying. It is very similar to the fake apologies beloved by badly behaved politicians. You know the ones where they don't ever simply admit doing wrong but they do apologise if anyone took offence. Yule is very much angling to the much loved and overused "we do a good job but don't communicate it well".

I think the majority of the country have worked out that councils are long on fine words and sentiments but that it is all expensive hot air. I suspect this release will be treated just the same.

I might have been impressed had Yule said something along the lines of "We knew we were losing your trust and we did nothing about it for 15 years. Sorry. We will shut up and listen while you tell us what we need to do to get your trust and confidence back." But he didn't.

Just note what they are doing:

- they have sat on this embarrassing report for ages age and ages keeping it secret from their communities
- they are now locking themselves away from their communities and writing, writing , writing
- they will then impose "their" improvement plan on their communities (paid for by ratepayers)

In other words it's business as usual


Just repeating this bit 'cause it's so brilliant: "You know the ones where they don't ever simply admit doing wrong but they do apologise if anyone took offence. "

Also part of the problem is in the hiring process. If they keep hiring the type of people who are rule followers and apologists and team playa's then they won't get anything done because that means difference, initiative, and risk. None of those things are in the traditional council culture (group-wise, not speaking about individuals) so "hire to fit culture" practices is likely to result in the same - and any chance will alienate everyone else in the the point of crisis.

Even IF they did get a few staff going forwards, there's always a bunch of hangers-around from the community which love to give the council and elected-councillors a hard time for not doing what they want. I know in one of my local councils there's one where councillors and staff have been known to give in to some ridiculous demands just to shut her up.


Sounds like one formidable lady.


Wonder why, this governments very well oiled propaganda machine is working noise to blame them for everything that central government is either doing nothing about or doing wrong.