10.2.1 The varied nature of council decisions


  1. Council decisions vary in the discretion exercised, the process, the decision-maker and the significance to people and the region. Council decision-makers should be aware of the type of power they are exercising.

  2. The nature of the decision affects the requirements and principles that apply. Important features of a decision include:

    • The source of the power - legislation may prescribe certain processes or obligations where the decision-maker is exercising a specific statutory power. If the source is the council’s power of general competence, there may not be any specific processes to follow and the general decision-making requirements in the Local Government Act 2002 may be more important.

    • Nature of the discretion exercised - every decision requires the decision-maker to exercise some sort of discretion. Some council decisions are political or involve mainly policy considerations; others are more administrative or operational.  Decision-makers will normally have more discretion when making policy decisions.  By contrast, administrative decision-makers have more limited discretion as they usually have a set of criteria to apply to a particular case.  Most decisions fall somewhere on a spectrum rather than being purely political or administrative.  

    • The decision-maker - a range of people are responsible for council decisions, including elected members, council employees and independent experts. Elected members are expected to act in a politically and democratically accountable manner and may need to be more impartial and objective when making certain types of decisions. For more information see Section 10.4.4: Condlicts of interest, predeterminatiuon and bias. Council employees and independent experts are expected to make decisions based on their training or expertise.

    • Impact of the decision - decisions can apply broadly or they can affect a particular individual. Decisions that impact a single individual are likely to give rise to natural justice obligations, while decisions with broad application are more likely to require public consultation (but may also come with natural justice obligations to consult specific people).

    • Whether the decision is regulatory - this factor is discussed further in Section 10.2.2: Regulatory and non-regulatory decisions.



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