5.2.1 Democratic accountability



  1. The Mayor and councillors are accountable to the community. Their decisions as part of the governing body are open for scrutiny throughout the term by the media, commentators and the public. The media play a major part in forming the community’s view of members’ performance and the governing body’s performance as a whole.

  2. All decision-making by public institutions is subject to scrutiny by the courts. People affected by council decisions may ask the court to judicially review how decisions were made. There may also be avenues to object to - or appeal - council decisions through the courts, where the relevant legislation allows for this.  

  3. The Minister of Local Government has powers to intervene in the affairs of a local authority where there are significant issues. The options vary according to the nature and scale of assistance or intervention required, but include: appointing a Crown review team, Crown observer, Crown manager or by appointing a commission to replace elected members [1]. This has occurred elsewhere in New Zealand in the past.

  4. There are various statutory bodies that oversee local government, including the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General. They can investigate complaints about a council decision. The Auditor-General is also the council’s auditor and regularly audits the council’s performance (including publishing reports on council processes and arrangements). For example, in 2016, the auditor-general published a report on the council’s complaints process.

Consultation and engagement

  1. When making a decision the governing body must comply with Part 6 of the Local Government Act 2002 which sets out the requirements around:

    • identifying all reasonably practical options to achieve the decision’s objective

    • assessing options in terms of their advantages and disadvantages

    • engaging with Māori on significant decisions involving land or a body of water

    • considering the views and preferences of the people affected by or who have an interest in the decision. 

  2. Further detail on the obligations around decision-making by council can be found in Section 10: How council decisions are made.



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