Local government

A list of our content (including reports, articles, blog posts, and published letters) about the local government sector (city, district, and unitary councils, and council-controlled organisations).
Managing the supply of and demand for drinking water

September 2018: We audited three district councils (Horowhenua District Council, Kāpiti Coast District Council, and Manawatu District Council) and one city council (Palmerston North City Council) to understand the challenges they face in supplying drinking water to their communities. We looked at what these four councils are doing to influence demand for drinking water and whether they are taking an integrated approach, using financial and non-financial methods.

Long-term plans: Our audits of councils’ consultation documents

August 2018: In 2018, councils were required – for the second time since the Local Government Act 2002 was amended in 2014 – to produce consultation documents for their long-term plans. This report is based on our audits of the 2018-28 consultation documents. It is a mix of reflection, commentary, and good-practice guidance. We hope that this combination provides a useful resource for the next time councils prepare and consult on their planning documents.

Local government: Results of the 2016/17 audits

March 2018: This report presents the results of our annual audits and other work in local government during 2016/17. Some of our findings are recurring, which is of concern. Elected members are ultimately responsible for what a local authority does, how it does it, and the consequences. We acknowledge the multiple demands on local authorities to balance service delivery and costs, and we hope that the findings in this report make a useful contribution to addressing matters that need to be considered.

Getting the right information to effectively manage public assets: Lessons from local authorities

December 2017: Elected councillors need relevant and reliable information to make good decisions about managing the assets they govern. As communities and environments change, the challenges that local authorities face and decisions they make are becoming more complex. We looked at how five local authorities approached identifying and gathering the right information about their assets...

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority: Assessing its effectiveness and efficiency

January 2017: In our view, CERA did well early on in the recovery. CERA was also effective in leading a co-ordinated government response to the earthquakes. However, CERA found it challenging to maintain momentum. Its role became less clear as it took on more responsibility for delivering more projects and programmes. CERA did not engage the community well, and struggled to demonstrate its effectiveness and value for money because it had inadequate performance measures and information. It also took a long time for CERA to set up effective systems and controls. CERA’s management controls and performance information needed improvement right up to the time of its disestablishment.

Local government: Results of the 2014/15 audits

April 2016: Communities continue to expect that their council will manage spending well and keep rate increases to a minimum. But the demand for services, and the need for investment in infrastructure, is generally not reducing. Councils must think about the long term and consider how to adapt.

Matters arising from the 2015-25 local authority long-term plans

December 2015: This report sets out the main findings and observations from our audits of local authorities’ 2015-25 long-term plans (LTPs). It follows on from our report Consulting the community about local authorities’ 10-year plans, which included our observations from our audits of local authorities’ consultation documents.

Governance and accountability of council-controlled organisations

October 2015: This report updates our earlier publications on local authority subsidiaries and re-examines the principles for good governance of subsidiaries that we proposed in 2001. It also identifies and discusses the issues relevant to CCOs that have come to our attention since 2002.

Queenstown Lakes District Council: Managing a conflict of interest in a proposed special housing area

October 2015: We found that the chief executive’s involvement did not influence or contribute to any substantive aspects of the Council’s policy for special housing areas. The Mayor and Council took appropriate steps to manage the conflict of interest. The chief executive took no part in recommendations or decisions about special housing areas after declaring his interest. We also found that the conflict affected the chief executive’s ability to advise the Council about special housing areas and provide leadership to council staff in this area.

Reviewing aspects of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative

October 2015: Progress with technical aspects – such as reaching design solutions, developing procurement options, and budget management – has been strong. But Auckland Transport needs to improve the focus on relationships with stakeholders, contractor performance, and the benefits delivered to date, as part of the monitoring and reporting. We made 12 recommendations to help Auckland Transport strengthen AMETI’s governance, accountability, and programme management arrangements.

Consulting the community about local authorities' 10-year plans

August 2015: Overall, local authorities have responded well to the new requirements in the 2014 amendments to the Local Government Act 2002. However, the consultation documents we audited varied in quality, as did the infrastructure strategies. But they have provided a good base for local authorities to improve on.

Auckland Council: How it deals with building consents

April 2015: Overall, Auckland Council is performing its responsibilities as a building consent authority reasonably well. Its internal quality assurance procedures are sound, with systems and technical audits carried out routinely. It has a good standard of internal reporting of workflows and how well it meets targets...

Water and roads: Funding and management challenges

November 2014: Collectively, local authorities are responsible for more than $100 billion of community assets that provide essential everyday services. This report sets out an overview of the approach that local authorities are taking to managing their infrastructure assets. We focused on roading, water supply, wastewater, and storm water services...

Challenges facing licensing trusts

October 2014: This report brings our observations and concerns about licensing trusts to the attention of those with an interest in this part of the public sector. We found that some licensing trusts are well managed and quite successful, despite current economic challenges. However, increasing numbers of licensing trusts are struggling with profitability and financial viability. Some licensing trusts also resist the costs of public sector external accountability...

Watercare Services Limited: Review of service performance

May 2014: Overall, Watercare strives to provide its customers with good customer service, and it has been largely successful. In our view, it has been largely successful. Watercare inherited a complex set of tariff arrangements and has been progressively standardising them. However, Watercare could improve some aspects of its performance – in particular, by providing its customers with better information about how it operates and what customers can expect...

Inquiry into property investments by Delta Utility Services Limited at Luggate and Jacks Point

March 2014: Delta lost about $5.9 million on the Luggate investment and has projected a loss of about $2.8 million for Jacks Point. The report identifies that there was too much focus on the likely profits and not enough consideration of risks of the market slowing or an exit strategy if things went wrong. It also suggests that Delta should have got independent advice before investing.