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The role of the mayor in New Zealand

This study is about local leadership and the contemporary role of mayors in New Zealand. In particular, the focus is the implications of the legally undefined role of the mayor for the exercise of local leadership, especially as mayors are elected on the assumption that they will lead their councils – and their communities. The research project set out to determine common factors that inhibit and enhance leadership and governance. The purpose was to analyse whether functional clarification for mayors would provide an effective foundation to counter disharmony and political disturbance and enable mayors to provide more effective local leadership and enhance local governance, today and for tomorrow. The emphasis was the 1990s - coinciding with the author’s personal experience as the elected three-term Mayor of Hamilton (1989-1998), and following the major 1989 local government legislative reforms. ‘Troubles’ within the City Halls of the nation, and the impact discord was having on local governance and community expectations, were of increasing concern. Significantly in 2000 the Minister of Local Government sacked the dysfunctional Rodney District Council. This report reviews this event and its influence on the development of the new Local Government Act - enacted in December 2002 – together with the emerging expectations that the role of elected members would be an issue. The methodology included an extensive questionnaire to all incumbent mayors of 1998-2001, the three-year term of office that immediately followed the author’s retirement. A 60 per cent response rate was achieved. The tradition and convention associated with the leadership position of the mayor is fragile and at risk of obstruction and denial in the council leaders’ tug of war. The functioning of the mayoral office in the primus inter pares council environment is dependent on a set of interlaced and interactive factors, and in particular on relationships with councillors and the CEO. The origins of the mayoral office and its traditional role and authority were reviewed, along with the development of local government in New Zealand. Literature on leadership was mined, to determine whether contemporary discourse had relevance to the local leader focus. There is a paucity of writings on the mayoral position. In the study, local leadership as it relates to the office of the mayor and the functions of the position, is defined as an intertwining of the community role (representation), the council political executive role (as presiding member), and the policy role (relating to council decision-making). The report concludes that a combination of rational-legal protections – a sound basis in law and in tandem with the provisions for CEOs – could provide a stable everyday authority foundation for leadership to ‘rise to the occasion’, enabling effective governance. A draft clause prescribing the role and functions of the mayoralty is presented.
Type of thesis
Evans, M. (2003). The role of the mayor in New Zealand (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8242
University of Waikato
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