The Department of Internal Affairs

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Local Government in New Zealand - Local Councils


Council planning and consultation processes

The Local Government Act 2002 provides extensive powers to councils to decide which activities they undertake and the manner in which they will undertake them. These powers are limited by –

  • The purpose of local government.
  • Transparency and accountability requirements.
  • Other specific provisions in the Local Government Act – including requirements to listen to the concerns and suggestions of community members.
  • Provisions in other Acts.

Local authority planning cycle

There is a robust planning process demanded by the Local Government Act 2002 (part 6). In consultation with their communities, councils must prepare long-term plans every three years, and annual plans in the other two years.

Long-term plan

The long-term plan (LTP) is the key planning tool for councils.

Its purpose is to –

  • Describe the council’s activities and the community outcomes it aims to achieve.
  • Provide integrated decision-making and coordination of the resources, as set out in section 93 (6)(c) of the Act.
  • Provide a long-term focus.
  • Show accountability to the community.
  • Provide an opportunity for participation by the public in council decision-making processes.

The LTP must include information on activities, goods or services provided by a council, and specific funding and financial management policies and information.

LTPs outline all things a council does and how they fit together. They show what will be done over the plan's 10 year period, why the council is doing things and their costs.

People can express their views on the LTPs when they are reviewed every three years. In addition as part of their LTP development process, councils may talk with other parties about how they can help promote identified local outcomes in which those parties have an interest.

Annual plan

The annual plan process focuses on year-to-year budgets. Councils prepare an annual plan in each of the two years between LTP reviews, and set out in them what the council plans to do in the next 12 months to move towards achieving its goals. These plans are adopted before the start of the financial year in July, following a submission process.

Consultation on policies

Councils are required to establish consultative processes around their policy-making activities which reflect the intent and the purpose of the Local Government Act 2002.

Annual report

The annual report tells the community whether the council has done what the LTP or annual plan said the council intended to do, and details what has been spent. Annual reports must be adopted by 31 October each year.