The Department of Internal Affairs

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Local Government in New Zealand - Local Councils


Rules for elected members

Elected members must act in accordance with a series of council rules and statutory obligations.

Code of conduct

All councils must adopt a Code of Conduct setting out how elected members are expected to behave toward each other and to staff, and how they can use information available to them as elected members. These codes of conduct are publicly available and are referred to in the council’s local governance statement.

A breach of the code will only result in the elected member being penalised if it was also a breach of law or if the council has adopted its own code of penalties.

Standing orders

Every council must adopt procedures that govern the conduct of their meetings and the way they debate in council and committee meetings. These procedures are called the standing orders.

They apply to all meetings unless 75% of the council votes to suspend them during a meeting.

When elected members have an "interest"

Several Acts determine the behaviour of elected members. The Secret Commissions Act 1910 deals with the acceptance of gifts or rewards, and the Crimes Act 1961 deals with bribery and the use of official information for personal gain.

The Act that comes into play most often is the Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act 1968. This Act makes it clear that elected members must not vote or take part in a council discussion if they have a pecuniary interest in the discussion. Elected members will be disqualified from office if they have an interest in a council contract with a value greater than $25,000 in a single year, which has not been approved by the Audit Office.

Office of the Controller and Auditor-General conflicts of interest reports can be found on

When elected members leave office

Elected members may leave office during a council term if they resign or are required to leave as a consequence of their individual actions. These may include –

  • Being absent from four consecutive ordinary council meetings without leave.
  • Being disqualified as an elector under the Electoral Act or convicted of an offence with a term of imprisonment greater than two years.
  • Being judged by the District Court to be incapable of holding office.
  • Becoming mentally disordered.