Relationship Dynamics in New Zealand Territorial Authorities
Local governments play a key role in servicing communities and progressing their interests. Elected officials and hired staff both play crucial roles in local government and their relationships can significantly affect the character of council operations. These relationships have not been subjected to any significant academic examination in the New Zealand setting and this thesis addresses this void by examining the different relationship structures which exist within New Zealand territorial authorities. This report combines international research, the theoretical components that have been previously explored in New Zealand, and the actual experiences of elected officials and senior managers. Primary research is grounded on prominent relationship models and typologies, all of which have different foci and consequently complement each other. The most prominent model is the Politics/Administration Dichotomy, which is argued to have been established in the late 1890s/early 1900s. This refers to a strict separation of the political and administrative realms, which are divided into the stewardship of elected officials and council management. The Complementarity Model, promoted by James Svara, is used as a counterpart to the dichotomy. This model is based on the premise that elected officials and bureaucrats join together in the mutual pursuit of good governance. While the model recognises their distinct roles, backgrounds and perspectives, it highlights the integration resulting from the interdependence, reciprocal influence and overlapping functions. In order to analyse the position of New Zealand territorial authorities within academic models and typologies, primary research includes both a nationwide survey and a closer analysis of four case studies. Results suggest that varying views exist regarding whether the separation of staff and councillors is based on their respective roles or inputs. A role-based separation would emphasise distinct ‘realms’, with councillors controlling policy-making and staff controlling the implementation of policy. This approach supports a hegemonic relationship and can be seen to embody the Politics/Administration Dichotomy. Alternatively, an input-based separation would emphasise the issues that each group should focus on, with councillors integrating community desires and staff incorporating their technical expertise. This idea lends itself to interactive processes and is consistent with Svara’s Complementarity Model. Neither the input nor role based relationship foundations are inherently superior; with various empirical factors influencing the suitability of each relationship structure. However, there needs to be an explicit understanding around the nature of relationships for councils to function to their full potential. Furthermore, choices of relationship structure need to include a deliberate evaluation of how different values will be strengthened and weakened by each approach.
Advisor: Thompson-Fawcett, Michelle
Degree Name: Master of Planning
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Local government; New Zealand; Relationship Dynamics
Research Type: Thesis