Obsolete: Two-tier local government

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Obsolete item: The administration of local affairs both by a municipality and a larger region.

Born: The Otago Provincial Council was created in 1850 and the Dunedin Town Board in 1853. Naseby became a borough in 1873.

Death: In 1989, Gisborne became its ‘‘own’’ region. Auckland became a stand-alone supercity in 2010.

Use: To rubber-stamp decisions others have made.

Description: Los Angeles has California between it and the United States, Sydney has New South Wales. The entree, main and dessert of town, region and national government may seem like the natural order of things, but do we really need it? It would be impolite to single out either regional councils or city/district councils as ‘‘obsolete’’ but surely there is a case that we don’t need both. With Auckland, Gisborne, Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough now under unitary councils, a third of Aotearoa’s population is getting by on only one cylinder. The rest of us are paying two rates bills for two chief executives, two phone-answering centres, two websites, two annual plans, two codes of conduct, two elections ... Another approach is for local government to assume some of a regional council’s duties: Invercargill City runs its own bus service, an aspiration expressed by Dunedin City from time to time.

Comeback: The tendency for regions to seek autonomy or independence (such as Scotland, Tibet or Catalonia) often leads to more levels of government.


— Peter Dowden



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