" The paths to the future are not found but created"

Book publication


Handbook of Research on Sub-National Governance and Development

MDL Executive Director Peter McKinlay, Jenny Hodgson, Executive Director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, and Barry Knight Executive Director of CENTRIS in the UK have co-authored a chapter for this handbook on the theme of the emerging role of trusts and foundations in community governance. The Handbook was published in December 2016.


Current projects

Local Government Think Tank. MDL is working with a number of councils to create what will be New Zealand’s first local government think tank. The intention is to create a resource which among other things can take a long-term strategic overview of the future of local government and local governance, free from the day-to-day pressures of having to deliver a wide range of services within typically tight constraints. The think tank already has a strong international network of related think tanks, researchers and practitioners. Contact Peter McKinlay to find out more.

Council controlled organisations. We have been taking a fresh look at the role, place and governance of Council controlled organisations within the Council 'family'. It's very timely given the government's declared intention of encouraging greater use of CCOs. At MDL, we regard CCOs as accountability models at least as much as efficiency models and are working to encourage a greater understanding of the value they can add in enhancing democratic accountability. This work has drawn on our research published in the June 2015 issue of the Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration as Innovation in local government and governance: observations on emerging practice in New Zealand.

Completed Projects

Council controlled organisations. We have been taking a fresh look at the role, place and governance of Council controlled organisations within the Council 'family'. With the support of a number of bodies in New Zealand and the Australian state of Victoria we were able to carry out a significant cross-country study of the governance, management and accountability of arm’s-length entities which have been very well received. To obtain the report, contact Peter McKinlay.

Local and community governance. We completed a piece of work on this topic in 2016, drawing on our network of international researchers and practitioners. It highlights the very significant differences between New Zealand councils and councils in other jurisdictions in how they work with and engage their communities. For more information contact us.


What's New?

Local Government Amalgamation. This continues to be one of the most politically controversial and difficult challenges for governments which wish to drive change through local government. In New South Wales the policy of forced amalgamations appears now to have been partially abandoned following a change of Premier and perhaps more importantly a major by-election defeat for the NSW Liberal party’s coalition partner. It remains in place for metropolitan Sydney, but has been abandoned for the rest of NSW. In New Zealand a legislative attempt to give the local government commission power to create regional Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) is stalled in Parliament as the national party’s support partners oppose withdrawing the public’s right to decide.

MDL's people

Peter McKinlay will be in the UK at the end of February and the beginning of March on behalf of the new local government think tank, meeting with a wide range of officials, industry bodies, think tanks and researchers. The visit will strengthen the New Zealand think tank’s linkages and include up to date briefings on current policy initiatives (including the Welsh government’s approach to requiring councils to deliver services regionally, and the progress of the devolution from Whitehall to local government especially through combined authorities).

We’re thrilled to post that Principal Consultant Adrienne von Tunzelmann is the recipient of a Queen’s Service Order, awarded in the NZ 2016 Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours list. Adrienne received the QSO for services to governance and the community.

Adrienne has also been appointed to the Governance Group for the NZ’s Ageing Well National Science Challenge. One of 11 Government-funded National Science Challenges, Ageing Well aims to harness science to sustain health and well-being into later years of life.     

This follows her election as Vice President of Age Concern New Zealand for 2016 - 2018.

New local government resources on our website
We have significantly extended our website resources pages by uploading a selection of papers representative of our recent work relating to local government, including a number of conference keynote addresses, and presentations for individual councils and groups of councils. The collection can be found in our pages covering international, local governance, and a new page dedicated to local government reform.


Must Read

Look here for links to recent international publications to keep up-to-date with what's going on in areas related to our fields of work. Our current favourites are:

Creating Good City Economies in the UK. This joint publication from the Centre for Local Economic Strategies and the New Economics Foundation looks at alternative local economic approaches in 10 UK cities. They conclude “rethinking the economic system and how it works for us is no longer a question of exciting ‘nice-to-have’ alternatives to a functioning mainstream. It is a question of urgently building a new, mainstream, practical economic system that actually functions well enough to provide good live sustainably and equitably. That is what this compendium explores - the challenges and the opportunities of rethinking the system; the practical know-how and creative genius already at our fingertips across the UK that should give us a flying start.”

Engaging Citizens at the Heart of Power The Royal Society of the Arts, England's oldest and one of its most influential think tanks, has recently established an Economic Council as a catalyst for sparking a broader public discussion about the goals and priorities of economic policy, through an open online course and by promoting citizen deliberation over economic policy at events in communities up and down the country. This essay discusses three of the principal themes which the Council will explore.



MDL has been recognised for its thought leadership across a number of sectors.  You can follow our latest thinking by clicking on the blog link below:

Latest Blogs

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Upcoming Events

On 27 February 2017 Peter McKinlay will be presenting to the London-based Local Government Information Unit on themes including recent thinking on the role and function of local government (service deliverer or community leader/enabler/facilitator), the lessons which can be learnt for local government in New Zealand and England respectively from each other’s experience, some international comparisons and the state of knowledge development for local government in New Zealand. The presentation is part of building the growing collaboration between LGIU and the emerging New Zealand local government think tank.

Auckland Conversations
Our recommendation for those in or near Auckland: the  Auckland Conversations series. Attendance is free. Top international and New Zealand speakers cover topics as wide-ranging as placemaking and neighbourhoods, liveable sustainable cities, urban transport, economic development, climate change and population trends. Enquiries to: aucklandconversations@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz.

NZ Institute of Public Administration
MDL supports the activities of the New Zealand Institute of Public Administration IPANZ.To see future events or to register, go to the IPANZ website.


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