New Zealandn our home country New Zealand most of our work is with the local government sector, or people with a close interest in local government. The focus is typically on long-term strategic direction rather than simply the day-to-day business of "road, rates and rubbish".
Over the past year or so we have been actively involved in advising a number of different local authorities on the implications for them of the restructuring of Auckland, and associated major events such as the flow on from the global financial crisis. This has included a major report for Northland's district councils on options for the future of local government in Northland, and presentations in the adjoining regions on their post-Auckland options.
Through our association with the Local Government Centre at AUT University we have also made a very significant contribution to public debate on the future of local government not just in Auckland but for New Zealand generally.
We have also undertaken work on the governance and management of council controlled organisations which has thrown up some very interesting issues regarding the qualities and experience required not just for the boards of CCOs, but for councils themselves if they are to make effective use of this option. Currently we are exploring the possibility of developing university-based short-courses for people interested in the use, governance and management of CCOs.
Contact us to learn more of our New Zealand-based work and how we can assist you.
Internationally we work with a wide range of researchers, think tanks and organisations involved with local government. Some of these relationships are formal, based on membership or joint project activity, others are collaborative relationships for sharing expertise. We have found that the ability to bounce ideas off international experts from different jurisdictions, and conversely act as a sounding board for colleagues from around the world, is a hugely useful resource in the work which we do.
At the more formal level, Peter McKinlay is a member of the Research Advisory Group of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and on the editorial board of its e-journal the Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance. These involvements link us with local government researchers and practitioners across the Commonwealth. As an example of the activity which this network promotes, Peter McKinlay and Graham Sansom, the director of the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, are co-editing a book on the theme of new century local government which will be published by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Informally, we maintain regular dialogue on developments in local government internationally with think tanks such as the New Local Government Network and the Centre for Cities in London, with practitioners and academics in Canada, especially British Columbia, participate in the Forum of Federations Roundtable on Metropolitan Governance, and work closely with a number of different groups in Australia including the Municipal Association of Victoria through their future of local government project, Local Government Managers Australia and the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government with whom we undertake a number of joint projects on local government.
A good example of the type of issue which benefits from the ability to exchange experience and insights with practitioners and researchers from different jurisdictions is the use of arms-length entities (in New Zealand known as council controlled organisations). As has become clear in the recent debate over the future structure of local government in Auckland, governance and accountability of arms-length entities raises very complex and significant questions. Our informal dialogue on different approaches to resolving these questions involves people from entities such as Capital Ambition (an offshoot of London Councils) and the Local Government Information Unit in London, a number of Australian practitioners and researchers, and officials from the provincial government in British Columbia. This dialogue has confirmed that New Zealand has what is almost certainly the best regime for the governance and accountability of arms-length entities but has also highlighted a number of areas in which both the framework, and the actual practice, need to be strengthened.