Opportunity to Reset The Relationship Between Central and Local Government

Tregaskis Brown | Nov 2, 2023

Central government’s relationship with local government has been through the wringer these last few years. Whether you supported or opposed the last government’s reforms, you will likely be exasperated that much ‘wringing’, effort and money was wasted as the reforms are repealed. Perhaps you are also frustrated that uncertainty will continue to hold back the development of our cities, districts, and regions - in the short term at least.  

The new government will likely repeal the three waters legislation and the replacement acts for the RMA. City and regional deals are proposed as the way to reset the relationship between central and local government. One of the emerging descriptions of these deals is a partnership with a 10-year plan including a package of priority projects such as transport, housing and other infrastructure and establishing a growth benchmark, then shifting control of decisions away from central government. 

These deals are an opportunity for substantive cross-boundary collaboration without contentious structural reform. They are also an opportunity to break central government’s chronic silos in the regions. A community’s priorities for spatial planning and climate resilient infrastructure could fold into these arrangements, building on work done over the past six years.  

In contrast to the last six years, funding from central government will be very constrained. This points to long-term deals incorporating a debt financing component and private sector capital, something local communities have been suspicious of in the past. Another challenge is that investments, to address climate resilience for example, don’t always have a positive impact on growth, for example developing housing away from readily available but climate vulnerable land. Nuanced metrics will be interesting to negotiate to capture benefits broader than GDP, as will negotiating the consequences of not meeting the benchmark.      

Auckland Council has been quick out of the blocks with an opening salvo for an Auckland deal. Other areas no doubt have their proposals in development. The promise of entirely bespoke central-local government deals is both exciting and a recipe for wasted effort. By being ready with your deal at an outline level now, there is an opportunity to put your communities’ case forward to influence central government’s policy. Such an approach could reduce the risk of options being closed off without expending excessive community resources.    

What might make your community’s deal a priority for the new government will become clearer over time. Certainly, evidence of the local and national economic benefits will be a big factor. Having a tight, unified cross-boundary position will help - fractious relationships will put a deal at the bottom of the queue. A solid plan for delivery will also be a plus as the new government will want results within the next three years.  

 While city and regional deals can’t be expected to solve all the challenges that local government faces, they have the potential to provide long-term certainty on some aspects of communities’ infrastructure and development needs. The onus is now on local leaders to make the most of the opportunity for their community.     

This is where Tregaskis Brown can help – getting you from where you are now to where you need to be. We work regularly with complex organisations to reset strategy to address specific challenges. This includes: 

  • Working with senior leaders to navigate ‘sticky problems’ 
  • Facilitating strategic and business planning processes 
  • Delivering on programmes of major change 
  • Leading and advising on solutions to achieve long-term goals 
  • Building productive relationships among and between central and local government. 

If you want to discuss how we can assist, get in touch.