Benefits of local government coordination in growing urban areas

The growth of our cities and changes in how people live, work and travel are placing increasing pressure on local government structures that were established over 30 years ago.

Data & Decisions

Long-term planning

3 min read

Photography iStock

There is a need for:

  • Coordinated planning for transport infrastructure and public transport services across council boundaries so that travel across boundaries is seamless and bus routes (provided by regional councils) are supported with the right local road infrastructure (provided by territorial authorities).
  • Coordinated urban planning policies across council boundaries to ensure that planning rules are consistent throughout the city and housing can be developed in the right places.
  • Councils with the right capabilities and capacity to deliver regionally significant projects and the right incentives to collaborate to optimise the use of shared resources and infrastructure assets.

To illustrate why coordination is increasingly important, Figure 22 shows that the share of people commuting across council boundaries has risen significantly in New Zealand’s five largest cities as they’ve expanded. As these trends continue, cities will become larger and more integrated across council boundaries in the future.

There are multiple ways to improve coordination and service provision. Realignment of council boundaries and roles may be beneficial in some instances, but it should not be seen as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that a reduction in the number of local government bodies is associated with faster growth in regional GDP per capita in urban areas, but not in rural areas.192 This is most likely to reflect better coordination and service provision. The same relationship is observed in New Zealand.193 Notably, Auckland, where local government was amalgamated in 2010, is the only region in New Zealand where per capita GDP growth was faster in the 2010s than in the 2000s.

The number of commuting trips across local government boundaries has increased substantially

Figure 22: Share of all commuting trips that cross local government boundaries 2001 to 2018

Source: Adapted from Sense Partners (2021)

Source: Adapted from Sense Partners (2021)