Media release: Continuing the localism debate

Media release
7 July, 2019

Wellington (7 July 2019): The New Zealand Initiative is proud to support the release of Local Government New Zealand’s (LGNZ) localism discussion paper, Reinvigorating local democracy, which was launched today at the 2019 LGNZ Conference in Wellington.

The discussion paper outlines a gradual process for New Zealand to move from being one of the world’s most centralised countries in the developed world to one that is prepared to trust its communities to play a meaningful role in our social, economic and cultural development. This is a topic that is also at the heart of our research programme.

Feedback from the public, LGNZ members, and attendees at the Localism Symposium, held earlier this year by LGNZ and the Initiative, has contributed to the final discussion paper. And with the release of the Productivity Commission’s draft report on local government funding and financing earlier this week, localism is getting its well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

“Better ways of organising and incentivising local government can be transformational,” said Dr Eric Crampton, Chief Economist at The New Zealand Initiative. “For too long, New Zealand has responded to problems in local government by shifting tasks up to Wellington rather than by strengthening local government capabilities and incentives. Reconsidering local government’s role, and harnessing the opportunities available in fitting policy to suit local circumstances, has a lot of potential to improve wellbeing.”

Our 2019 essay, #localismNZ: Bringing power to the people, brought together the Initiative’s arguments in favour of localism and explained why we believe localism as a philosophy is compatible with New Zealand’s history. We also answered the most common objections to localism we have come across over the past seven years.

Our 2015 report, In the Zone: Creating a Toolbox for Regional Prosperity, outlined ways of letting local government take up greater policy responsibility while building in both accountability and appropriate incentives.

The Initiative looks forward to working with LGNZ further as we continue to call for an active programme of devolution and decentralisation.

The LGNZ discussion paper, Reinvigorating local democracy: The case for localising power and decision-making to councils and communities, can be found at

Read more: #localismNZ: Bringing power to the people and more research reports from the Initiative on localism can be found here.


Dr Eric Crampton is available for interviews. To arrange a time, please contact:

Simone White, Communications Officer
Phone: +64 4 494 9109 / +64 21 293 7250

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