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Towards better local regulation

The Commission released the findings of its independent inquiry into regulatory performance in local government in May 2013. The final report, summary material, inquiry submissions and survey results are available below.

The Commission’s views were informed by an extensive engagement process which included comprehensive surveys of the business community and councils, a formal public submission and consultation process and over 100 engagement meetings with government officials, businesses and councils.

Townscape with a park in the foreground


  • Our brief
    May 2012
  • Consultation and engagement starts
  • Issues paper
    6 July 2012
  • Submissions closed 31 August 2012
  • Draft report
    17 December 2012
  • Submissions closed 6 March 2013
  • Final report
    13 May 2013
  • Evaluation
    August 2013
  • Government response
    22 July 2014

The inquiry

This inquiry was commissioned to contribute to the Government’s ‘Better Local Government’ initiative as part of their eight-point programme to improve the legislative framework for New Zealand’s councils. The Commission was asked to:

  • develop principles to guide decisions on which regulatory functions are best undertaken by local or central government;
  • identify opportunities to improve the regulatory performance of local government; and
  • recommend options for regularly assessing the regulatory performance of the local government sector.

Read our brief from the Government here.

Key findings

Chair of the Productivity Commission Murray Sherwin shares the key findings and recommendations in the following short video:

Key recommendations

In our final report the Commission made 29 recommendations for improvements in how regulation is designed, implemented, evaluated and governed. Both councils and Government need to lift their game on regulation, and work together more effectively to produce better outcomes for the community. Our recommendations included:

  • a tool for helping to decide what regulations, and which parts of implementing regulation, are best performed by Government or councils;
  • use of standardised formats and increased transparency to better demonstrate how key council regulatory decisions have been made;
  • more focus by government departments, when preparing new regulation intended to be implemented by councils, on the costs and benefits of the proposed regulation, where those costs and benefits will fall, whether or not councils have the capability and capacity required to effectively implement the new regulation, and the likely costs of building that capability and capacity where it does not exist;
  • the development of a ‘Partners in Regulation’ protocol to better guide Government/council engagement;
  • the development of new or enhanced joint Government/council forums for overseeing improvements; and
  • greater use of risk-based approaches to monitoring and enforcement of regulation by councils, together with enabling greater use of infringement notices to support regulations in place of more costly formal prosecutions.

Government response

The Minister of Local Government, Hon Paula Bennett, and the Minister of Finance and for Regulatory Reform, Hon Bill English, announced on 22 July 2014 the Government’s response to the Report.

The Minister of Local Government also announced the formation of a taskforce to review regulatory requirements.


An independent evaluation of the Commission’s performance has been undertaken and the results from the expert review, focus group and participant survey are available below.

Insights into local government

Local government insightsThe learnings from this inquiry informed a Local government insights report. Understand the major challenges for both local and central government, what they need to get right, how to do things differently and the benefits of making these changes - read the report here.

This report brought together the learnings of five of the Commission's inquiries into local government performance: Local government funding and financing (2019); Better urban planning (2017); Using land for housing (2015); Towards better local regulation (2013); and Housing affordability (2012).


An independent evaluation of the Commission’s performance was undertaken.