News from Local Government NZ
Mayors throughout New Zealand will gain important new powers under law changes which will come into operation following the current local authority elections.
Lawrence Yule, President for Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), said these have the potential to bring real benefits, enabling new councils to hit the ground running and for councillors to work more effectively together.
Under the changes, a mayor will now be able to appoint their own deputy mayor, determine the structure of committees and appoint committee chairs.
They will also now be responsible for driving the setting of major plans and budgets, including the long-term and annual plans – but they will also be more accountable for their decisions.
The law changes bring all New Zealand councils in line with the powers already granted to the Auckland Mayor under the Super City process.
“Although the legislation was passed at the end of last year, the new powers come into operation for the first time following the current elections,” said Mr Yule. “LGNZ is currently briefing council chief executives so that they can alert mayors to the new powers and advise them how they can best be used to provide more effective governance.”
Mr Yule said the new powers encourage cross-council collaboration because, in order to use them, a mayor needs the majority support of councillors. While mayors will now have the ability to make major decisions, councillors could still unite to vote down those proposals.
“Not only would that strengthen a mayor’s leadership, it would also help voters to hold the mayor and council accountable for its direction and decisions.”
Mr Yule said the effect of the changes could become evident very soon after the current elections because the new powers will enable mayors to select deputies, establish committees and get down to the work they have been elected to do, far more swiftly.
“In the past, that has required a number of council meetings,” he said. “We are advising chief executives to encourage mayors and councillors to hold workshops to establish committees as soon as possible after the elections. As long as the mayor has majority support, he or she will be able to quickly select the team they want.”