Gavin Beattie of the Local Government Commission sets out important procedural matters for councils when considering feedback from their communities on their initial representation review proposals and in moving to final proposals.
Fifty-seven councils are required to review their representation arrangements prior to the 2019 local authority elections. The review is to ensure each council continues to provide fair and effective representation for individuals and communities in their area.
Fair and effective arrangements strengthen local democracy and help maintain confidence in local government. Clearly this is something all councils should be striving to achieve.
With this in mind, this article addresses keys steps for councils in moving from their initial representation proposals to final proposals. Councils observing these important procedural steps, based on principles of transparency and accountability, will help maintain confidence in local government.
Notifications & inviting submissions
Councils are required to publicly notify their initial representation proposal, including an invitation for submissions, by September 8, 2018.
In performing its role, which includes functions under other legislation such as the Local Electoral Act 2001, a council must act in accordance with the principles set out in the Local Government Act 2002. These principles include the council:
• making itself aware of, and having regard to, the views of all its communities;
• taking account of the diversity of the community and its interests, including future interests; and
• providing opportunities for Maori to contribute to decision-making processes.
The statutory requirements for the public notice of a council’s initial proposal are to be seen as the minimum required. In light of the above principles, councils need to consider additional steps to encourage feedback on their proposals from as wide a cross-section of the community as possible.
Targeted consultation with particular groups should be considered along with initiatives such as the use of council publications, public displays in council buildings and social media.
Providing full, and widely-available, information on a council’s proposals is not only good practice but may reduce the potential for appeals / objections against the council’s final proposal.
Those people who make submissions must be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard by the council if they so request. It follows that the opportunity to be heard must be made clear. Hearings must generally be meetings open to the public and should be as customer-friendly as possible.
Councils must act in a legally fair manner when hearing submissions. This includes generally that only members who hear submissions participate in decision-making on those submissions.
Resolving a final proposal
Councils must consider all submissions received and give public notice of their final proposals within six weeks of the close of the period for submissions.
Amendments to an initial proposal need to be made in response to submissions. This is because, otherwise, the community will not have had an opportunity to give feedback on all aspects of the proposal.
Changes from the initial proposal not reflecting submissions are grounds for objection, by any person, against a council’s final proposal.
The public notice of the final representation proposal must state the reasons for amendments to the initial proposal and the reasons for rejection of any submissions. Therefore, a council’s resolution needs to record these reasons.
• This is the second in a series of three articles by Gavin Beattie of the Local Government Commission. The final article will be published in the October issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.
This article was first published in the July 2018 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.