What services are local councils responsible for?
This can vary depending on the council, but generally includes:
- public transport services
- rubbish and recycling
- libraries, parks, reserves and other recreational facilities
- roads and footpaths (excluding state highways and private roads and paths), including street lighting and street parking
- building consents and resource consents
- social housing
- issuing licences to sell alcohol and food, and to do things like busking
- animal and noise control
- water and wastewater
- civil defence
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How do I find out about bylaws in my area?
Each city, district and region has laws that govern how it is run. These are called bylaws, and are decided by the city, district or regional council.
You can usually find out about what bylaws apply where you live, by visiting your local council’s website. Your council may also be willing to send you a printed copy of a particular bylaw, but they may charge you a fee for printing and postage.
Proposed bylaws will often be announced in your local newspaper’s public notices section when they come up for consultation.
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How can I have a say in the way my city or district is run?
There are many ways in which you can have a say about local issues affecting you and your community:
Vote in the local body elections
This is your chance to help decide who will represent your views in the council.
Keep in touch with council developments and make submissions
Keep your eye on the public notices section of your local paper, or your council's website. This is where your council will invite people to have a say on proposed bylaws and other council initiatives. You can make submissions (as an individual or on behalf of a group like a residents association), to let the council know what you think. Your council’s website should have details of current consultations as well as guidance for how to make a submission.
Talk to councillors
If you have a particular issue to raise with the council, you could contact councillors by letter, email or phone. You could also try meeting face-to-face with local councillors to discuss your concerns. You should be able to find contact details for your local councillors on your council’s website or you could call the council and ask for contact details.
You can also arrange to speak at council meetings. Each council will have its own processes for this, but usually you will only be able to speak about items that are on the meeting’s agenda. Contact your local council for information about what’s on the agenda for upcoming meetings and the protocol for speaking at council meetings.
You could also make a petition to your local body, especially if you have already tried other ways of getting your issue addressed but haven’t been successful. Your council should be able to advise you about the process for making and submitting a petition.
Join an association
You might consider joining a ratepayers’ or residents’ association, as it can be easier to have your views heard if it’s coming from an organised group.
Become an elected councillor or community board member
If you are elected to your local council or community board you will be able represent your community and be directly involved in setting policies, and the making or changing of bylaws.
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I’d really like to run for local council, how do I do it?
Anyone who is eligible to vote in a parliamentary election and is a New Zealand citizen can stand for election to a regional body (eg as mayor, city councillor, regional councillor or district health board member).
You’ll need to get two people to nominate you who are eligible to vote in the electorate where you want to run for council. These nominations will have to be delivered in writing, with your written consent to be nominated, to the electoral officer for the local election by 12 noon on nomination day.
There are some rules around whether you can run for more than one position. Also, if you are a paid member of council staff and are elected to the position of mayor or councillor then you would have to resign from your paid position before taking up your new position. More about this will be in a handbook on your council’s website or at your local electoral office a few months before the local election.
The handbook will also have information about:
- the rules about campaigning, including how much you are allowed to spend on it.
- disclosure on donations made towards your campaign costs
- where and when you can put up signs promoting your candidacy
- which form of voting will be used
- how the vote count will be done
- how much you would earn if you were elected to a particular position
- the electoral boundaries
More information about what’s involved in standing for council is on the Local Government website, or on your local council’s website. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may also have information for prospective candidates.
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How do I make a complaint to my local council?
Start by obtaining a copy of your council’s complaints process and following it. If you are unable to do this, you could contact the relevant council business unit (e.g. animal control, noise control, footpaths, council housing), explain the problem, and give council staff a chance to remedy it.
If this doesn’t resolve the matter, you can make a formal complaint. Be sure to make it clear that you are making a formal complaint, for example by writing “Formal Complaint” in the subject heading if you are communicating by email. Your local council’s website should have information on how to make a formal complaint, or you can contact your council for this information.
If necessary, you can further escalate the matter by making a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman.