Local Government Magazine

Local Government Think Tank

Local Government Think Tank - Featured Image - Local Government August 2017

Peter McKinlay announces a new resource to generate research and inform debate for the sector.

Hamilton City Council, Masterton and Waipa District Councils and Rotorua Lakes Council are leading the establishment of New Zealand’s first local government-backed think tank. The Local Government Think Tank (LGTT) aims to help New Zealand local government build stronger communities by generating research, providing insight, and informing debate on current and emerging policy issues.
LGTT members have already started research in two key areas: the role local government has in enabling communities; and options for funding social infrastructure.
Think tank members have noted that it is common worldwide for local government to be recognised as the level of government best equipped to engage with local communities; to enable and facilitate strong community groups; to tap into local networks and knowledge; and to generally build inclusive communities.
Despite this, higher tiers of government have been slow to recognise the pivotal role local government can play in supporting the more effective delivery of government services. This is particularly true of services designed to meet complex needs requiring coordination across different providers.
Recent and current initiatives in social service delivery, such as the social sector trials and the social investment programme, have gone ahead with little or no local government involvement.
The LGTT is aiming to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches local government can use to enable resilient communities and how they could play a role in implementing community-based initiatives.
This is intended to support councils to further develop community enablement skills; and ultimately to influence central government’s understanding of local government’s potential.
Funding the development of social infrastructure can have significant financial implications. This is true both for communities with a growing population base (and therefore a growing demand for infrastructure) and for communities with a declining population base (and therefore a shrinking ratepayer base).
The research will consider alternative models for supplying social infrastructure beyond the currently-accepted norm of rates and debt.
The initial focus will be on identifying international best practice opportunities, such as central / local government and private sector partnerships (eg, Scottish Futures Trust), financial instruments such as social bonds and initiatives such as direct community action.
When a broad range of alternatives has been assembled, LGTT members will identify which of them are best suited to the New Zealand environment and therefore merit detailed examination.
In addition to the research work streams, the LGTT is placing a strong emphasis on building international networks with practitioners, researchers, international think tanks and others leading innovation in the understanding and practice of local government and local governance.
Waipa District Council deputy chief executive David Hall said it was timely to strengthen understanding of the innovative practices emerging internationally. “More importantly, we need to consider how best these practices might be applied in New Zealand.”
The think tank will work closely with other sector interests such as LGNZ and SOLGM.
Councils interested in learning more about the LGTT are invited to contact Garry Dyet at Waipa District Council or Pim Borren at Masterton District Council.

  • Peter McKinlay is interim director of the Local Government Think Tank (LGTT) and executive director of public policy consultancy McKinlay Douglas. peter@mdl.co.nz

At the SOLGM Summit
Members of the Local Government Think Tank (LGTT) are presenting a paper on future trends in community governance at SOLGM’s 2017 Annual Summit.
LGTT interim director Peter McKinlay will deliver an overview of current thinking on community engagement and stories of council experience from around the globe. He will speak about community enablement, co-production and the development of council significance and engagement policies.
Waipa District Council CE David Hall and communication and engagement manager Natalie Palmer will share their council’s experiences in this area.
The SOLGM Summit is being held at Rotorua’s Energy Events Centre on September 28 – 29. For more information 
on the summit, and to register, go to: bit.ly/SOLGM_AnnualSummit.

This article was first published in the August 2017 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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