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

Local government reform

This section of our website provides links to our work in local government reform, in our home country New Zealand and in Australia where much of our work is located. Many of the papers listed below have broader relevance in the context of local government internationally. Our work often draws on international experience, and on our international connections.


Raising the quality of public debate on local government  June 2014
Peter McKinlay and Stephen Selwood, chief executive of the New Zealand Council of the Infrastructure Development, gave a joint presentation to the New Zealand Treasury on the theme of raising the quality of public debate on local government. The presentation was very wide ranging and argued that it was time for a radical rethink of the legislative and regulatory framework for local government, and the nature of local governance. Read the full paper on the link above. See the Powerpoint here.

Reflections on the Role of Local and Central Government in the Delivery of Social Services December 2013

This report was prepared for the New Zealand Treasury as a think piece to assist it in considering the respective roles of central and local government in facilitating the better and more efficient delivery of the government's major social services.

The future direction of Local Government - what it means for rural and provincial New Zealand March 2013
Keynote address

This paper was a keynote address to the March 2013 conference of the Local Government Chief Executive Officers Group which brings together leading local government CEOs from New Zealand and Australia. The brief for the paper was to challenge the CEOs to lead change. The paper identifies a range of opportunities, and highlights both the importance of leadership, and the separate leadership roles within local government.

Leading Change in Local Government: a Collaborative Project? March 2013
Paper to Mayoral Forum

This paper was commissioned by the Waikato Mayoral Forum as a context-setter for a meeting to consider and recommend Waikato councils adopt a series of four collaborative work programmes, with the objective of improving the efficiency and accountability of local government across the Waikato region.

Rethinking Local Government for Rural and Provincial New Zealand: A New Look at Community Governance February 2013

The brief for this presentation to a joint session of the rural and provincial groups of Local Government New Zealand was to consider what rural and provincial councils could learn from what has been happening internationally with local government, both in the context of the government’s current reform programme, including the new role for mayors, and the changed provisions for local government reorganisation and more widely.

Rethinking Local Government in the Bay of Plenty February 2013

The brief for this presentation to a local government conference, hosted by the Taurnaga Region Chamber of Commerce, was to consider what the Bay of Plenty can learn from what has been happening internationally with local government, especially in the context of the government’s current reform programme. The paper also highlights the differential impact of demographic change, something which is directly undermining the ‘one size fits all’ approach sometimes taken to local government.

Community Leadership and Local Governance Frameworks: What Do We Know? October 2012
Conference paper

This paper was delivered to a conference organised jointly by the Wellington Rotary Club and Victoria University of Wellington on the theme of Wellington: What do we Want? How do we get there? The purpose of the paper was to provide an overview of developments in community governance internationally.

What Should We Want From Local Government Reform? Winter 2012
Journal article

This article was published in the Tauranga and Rotorua Property Investor journal. Its principal theme is the need to change the way local government operates so that our most talented leaders from business and other sectors of the community can afford to stand for office.

International and New Zealand Trends Influencing Changing Local Government, Thoughts for the Waikato August 2012
Conference paper

This paper was presented to the Rethinking Local Government Conference, a conference targeted principally to elected members and management from Waikato Region local authorities. The paper’s purpose was to assist their dialogue about options for the future of local government by drawing extensively on experience with the role, function and structure of local government in a number of different international jurisdictions.

Local government reform in New Zealand, 1990s: what was ordered and what was delivered
March 1998

This paper, while written some 15 years ago, still has currency. It was prepared for Local Government New Zealand to provide an assessment of the major reforms to local government introduced by the New Zealand Government in 1989/90 and subsequently, in the context of comprehensive public sector reform, and to anticipate what was yet to come. The actual reforms, as they emerged, are outlined, and compared with the objectives set. A number of major items that still needed to be addressed are identified. The paper predicts an increasingly important role for local authorities in the delivery of core central government social services, both as a co-ordinator/facilitator and possibly as a provider under contract.


Opportunities in Change: Implementing Local Government Reform November 2014
This paper was prepared by Peter McKinlay as one of three presentations for a workshop hosted by the Institute of Public Administration Australia Western Australia (IPAAWA) looking at next steps in the reform of local government in Metropolitan Perth.

Local Government Reform in New South Wales April 2013
Background paper to NSW Independent Review Panel 
We worked with a number of New South Wales councils in the lead up to the release of the draft report of the Independent Local Government Review Panel, providing councils with an overview of the reform process itself, its linkage with other reform initiatives (legislation, planning), implications for them and their communities, and the opportunities which the reform process should present. This paper is the most recent of the background papers prepared in the course of that work.

SEROC Reform Options Report November 2012
This report was prepared for the South Eastern Regional Organisation of Councils (a group of some 12 New South Wales local authorities surrounding the Australian Capital Territory) with the threefold purpose of providing the councils with an overview of the drivers for the current New South Wales local government reform process, supporting the councils in preparing a submission to the independent local government review panel, and developing a work program for future response.

Local Government: Shaping the Future October 2012
A keynote address to the Local Government Asssociation of New South Wales
This paper was Peter McKinlay’s keynote address to the 2012 annual (and last) conference of the Local Government Association of New South Wales leading up to its merger with the Shires Association of New South Wales to form a new peak organisation, Local Government New South Wales. The focus of the paper was on how the sector should respond to the state government’s reform agenda, including the important role of the new Association as the collective voice for the sector.

Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man? Challenges in Local Government Reform December 2011
Presentation slides to Sydney Business Chamber
These slides were the basis of a presentation Peter McKinlay gave to the Sydney Business Chamber, dealing with the principles which should inform local government reform both generally and in metropolitan centres such as Sydney.

Presentation to the Future of Local Government Summit Melbourne June 2011
Conference paper
This paper drew on the findings of the community governance project but with the added brief to address “what can local government do, or start to do, to position itself for a future where it has the best opportunity for self-determination, that is where it is respected by other levels of government which have confidence that local government can manage itself”

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