Asset management, consultation, and accountability.

In 2021, Audit New Zealand reviewed local authorities’ long-term planning. This was part of long-term plans for 2021 to 2031 being adopted across the country. To support long-term planning, we reviewed local authority consultation documents.

In doing so, we gathered lots of information and saw many cases of engaging consultation. We thought it would be helpful to share some examples of “what good looks like”, alongside a few thoughts and reflections of our own.

We hope this report provides a resource for anyone managing assets and interested in examples of how others have engaged with stakeholders.

Local authority assets, planning and the law

The Local Government Act 2002 (the Act) is the primary legislation covering local authorities’ long-term planning. Its purpose is “to provide for democratic and effective local government”. It does this by making clear the purpose of local government, providing a framework and powers, promoting accountability to communities, and providing “for local authorities to play a broad role in promoting the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of their communities, taking a sustainable development approach”.

Section 93 of the Act requires local authorities to have a long-term plan (LTP). Section 94 of the Act requires an LTP to contain a report from the Auditor-General on:

  • whether the plan gives effect to the purpose of long-term planning; and
  • the quality of the information and assumptions underlying the plan.

That is why we audited local authorities’ long-term planning across the country.

Section 14 sets out key principles for local authorities to follow. These include ensuring “prudent stewardship and the efficient and effective use of its resources in the interests of its district or region, including by planning effectively for the future management of its assets” (section 14(1)(g)).

The Act is not specific about how the future management of assets should be planned but does include specific requirements for an infrastructure strategy (section 101B). The Act tells us that:

the purpose of the infrastructure strategy is to —

(a) identify significant infrastructure issues for the local authority over the period covered by the strategy; and

(b) identify the principal options for managing those issues and the implications of those options.

Other public sector organisations have their own legislation governing what they do and how they do it. Although most legislation is not as specific as the Local Government Act, for organisations that rely on assets to support service delivery, good quality strategic and operational asset management planning is a prudent part of a robust service and financial planning system.

Standards and guidance

Within the context provided by legislation, standards and guidance provide a strong and clear framework for what good asset management planning should comprise. As a result, it is reasonably clear what good planning might look like. The ISO55000 suite of standards provides an overview of asset management, its principles and terminology, and the expected benefits from adopting asset management.2 The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) provides NAMS+ A toolkit for asset management planning.3

Audit reports

When we audit long-term planning, we issue two audit reports: one on the consultation document required by section 93C(4) of the Act and one on the LTP.

The consultation document and LTP have different purposes. The consultation document should provide an effective basis for public participation (section 93B). It is a means for local authorities to engage with stakeholders on services as they are experienced by local people. It can mean having to communicate some complex engineering issues and judgements in a way that is understandable, so that people are able to make an informed contribution.

For local authorities, service delivery relies heavily on physical assets – roads, water supply, wastewater, stormwater, buildings, and open spaces. Other parts of the public sector are similarly asset intensive. From ports and airports, schools, and universities to hospitals and state housing, good public services rely on good management of assets.

Good quality asset management planning needs to be well informed, not least by service users and other stakeholders that rely on public sector infrastructure.

About this report

This report shares examples of what we think good looks like. It discusses what makes consultation good and shares some examples of local authorities having the right debate about infrastructure in different ways with their communities.

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3: See