Councils and Government Can Lift Their Game On Local Regulation
The New Zealand Productivity Commission has released the findings of its independent inquiry into regulatory performance
in local government.
In releasing the inquiry report, Commission Chair Murray Sherwin said, “Local councils have a big influence on the
success of communities and local economies. A large and diverse set of regulations is managed by councils. They cover
things like urban development, building safety and standards for air quality, right through to dog control and food
safety. It is critical to community wellbeing, and New Zealand’s overall performance, that these local regulatory
systems perform well.
“Most of the regulation undertaken by councils has its origins in legislation passed by Government. Having central and
local government jointly thinking about what regulation is necessary, to what purpose and how best it can be
implemented, enforced and monitored is critical for getting good results. This inquiry shows that we are well short of
“At the council level, there is a need for greater attention to quality management processes to lessen the inconsistency
in regulatory decisions that we see between different councils and even within individual councils. That would reduce
much of the frustration reported by businesses in their interaction with councils.
“Our work has resulted in 29 recommendations for improvements in how regulation is designed, implemented, evaluated and
governed. Both councils and Government need to lift their game on regulation, and work together more effectively to
produce better outcomes for the community.
“Amongst the Commission’s recommendations for improving regulation are:
• a tool for helping to decide what regulations, and which parts of implementing regulation, are best
performed by Government or councils;
• use of standardised formats and increased transparency to better demonstrate how key council
regulatory decisions have been made;
• more focus by government departments, when preparing new regulation intended to be implemented by
councils, on the costs and benefits of the proposed regulation, where those costs and benefits will fall, whether or not
councils have the capability and capacity required to effectively implement the new regulation, and the likely costs of
building that capability and capacity where it does not exist;
• the development of a ‘Partners in Regulation’ protocol to better guide Government/council
• the development of new or enhanced joint Government/council forums for overseeing improvements; and
• greater use of risk-based approaches to monitoring and enforcement of regulation by councils,
together with enabling greater use of infringement notices to support regulations in place of more costly formal
“The Productivity Commission has taken a ‘whole of system’ approach to its review of council regulation. What is clear
is that improvements will require both central and local government to be well connected to achieve improvements.”
The Commission’s views were informed by an extensive engagement process which included comprehensive surveys of the
business community and councils, a formal public submission and consultation process and over 100 engagement meetings
with government officials, businesses and councils.
Finance Minister Bill English has tabled the Commission’s report in Parliament today. The Government will respond at a
later date, once the report has been considered in full.
The final report, summary material, inquiry submissions and survey results are available at www.productivity.govt.nz/inquiry-content/local-government
About the New Zealand Productivity Commission
The Commission—an independent Crown Entity—completes in-depth inquiry reports on topics selected by the Government,
carries out productivity-related research, and promotes understanding of productivity issues.