Trusts have become an increasingly important part of local governance in New Zealand. Energy trusts and community trusts control very substantial community assets, with the power to apply both income and capital for the benefit of the communities they represent (a good overview of their establishment, and of some of the unresolved issues resulting from the establishment process, can be found in the Institute of Policy Studies publication Public Ownership and the Community, authored by Peter McKinlay) put a link here.
But these are not the only form of trusts which can play a very important part in the governance of New Zealand's communities. Affordable housing link through to the section on housing below is one area in which well-designed trusts have much to offer, especially working in conjunction with local authorities.
The charitable trust structure also provides a very useful mechanism for the management of community assets, or the delivery of services, outside the CCO structure. Examples range from arts, culture and recreation trusts, economic development agencies, to trusts established to hold gifts and bequests on behalf of the community. The use of trusts has some very real benefits including bringing into community governance people whose skills and expertise might not otherwise be available, and building committed networks to support important community activity. We think of this as matching skills and interests to specific needs - whether it's affordable housing, supporting a community art gallery or museum, or promoting economic development, using trusts provides a way of directly connecting people to those activities where their skills and commitments are best matched.
We have long experience in advising people on the appropriate use and governance of community related trusts. A paper which Peter McKinlay delivered in 2000 to a joint SOLGM/LGNZ seminar, The Application of the Trust Model in the Local Government Sector: A Scene Setting Overview of the Trust Model, is still a good starting point. Read the paper here.