Localism: The initiative that has won over the nation

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
17 March, 2023

No matter how good an idea, it takes time for the entire country to hear about it.

But that time has now come for localism.

When the Initiative started in 2012, we were a lone voice in promoting ‘localism’. Even the term ‘localism’ was unknown in New Zealand back then.

What we meant by the word was empowering communities to make decisions about their own development. To put local people in charge. To give their councils financial incentives to grow.

So it was with great excitement that this week we received the results of a new opinion poll, commissioned by the Taxpayers’ Union.

The Taxpayers’ Union asked a representative sample of New Zealanders if they support sharing the proceeds of growth between central and local government – a key tenet of localism.

This was their precise question:

“When people build new houses or shops, the Government in Wellington receives money from taxes like GST and income tax. At the same time, local councils must fund things like roads, parks and services that are needed for the development. Would you support or oppose at least some of the extra tax revenue from new developments staying in the communities where it is generated instead of going to central government?”

In response, 70% of New Zealanders said they support such localist revenue sharing.

The number of supporters was almost the same among men (69%) and women (71%).

It was similar among young (68%), middle-aged (73%) and older New Zealanders (69%).

It was supported by a majority of National (74%), Labour (68%), ACT (80%) and Greens (72%) voters.

It was popular in Auckland (65%), Wellington (64%), Christchurch (59%). It was even more popular in provincial cities (70%) and towns (78%).

New Zealanders do not want Wellington to run their lives, and they do not want to be governed by distant bureaucrats.

Instead, New Zealanders have expressed overwhelming support for localism. They want their communities to have a greater say in local development and reward them for their hard work in making their communities grow.

Localism has become a mainstream idea. That is encouraging, and we may expect political parties to incorporate localist policies into their election manifestos for this year’s election.

After a decade of promoting the idea, we at The New Zealand Initiative are proud to have moved the debate on localism forward.

It is a great idea whose time has come.

To find out more about how the idea of localism grew in New Zealand, listen to the podcast conversation between Malcolm Alexander, former CEO of Local Government New Zealand, with Oliver Hartwich.

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