Local Government

We’re proud to be able to help local authorities of all sizes adapt to a rapidly evolving environment, and position themselves to deliver great outcomes for their communities.

As New Zealand's leading local government law firm, we advise over three quarters of Aotearoa’s local authorities each year, as well as Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) and Taituarā.

Our expertise covers the day-to-day operation of councils in their complex statutory and political environments, to the highest level strategic issues, developments and litigation affecting the entire local government sector. We provide sound, timely and practical advice when critical incidents or issues occur.

We advise councils on all areas of local government law including:

  • governance and structural issues (mayoral powers, governing body and committees roles, local and community boards, council-controlled organisations, and joint ventures)
  • decision-making requirements and processes
  • plan and policy development (including LTPs, Annual Plans and Significance and Engagement policies)
  • local body elections and related disputes
  • funding and financial management (including rating, rates disputes and development contributions, and as advisor to the LGFA)
  • property (including road stopping)
  • infrastructure (whether as applicant, consent authority or regulator)
  • public works and land valuation
  • bylaws and all other regulatory matters
  • commercial contracts, procurement and tendering
  • employment.

Work Highlights

Strategic public law advice

We have been the primary legal advisers to Auckland Council and its substantive CCOs - Auckland Transport, Watercare and Eke Panuku - since their formation in 2010. Our advice has ranged from governance issues to funding, procurement and regulation.

We were the lead legal advisors to Christchurch City Council on the immediate recovery and rebuild following the Christchurch earthquakes, including representation for the Royal Commission into building failure.

Our team has played a significant role in legislative reform, which includes advice to LGNZ and councils on amendments to the Local Government Act, and advice to the Department of Internal Affairs as part of the Future for Local Government Review process.

We regularly advise on local bills, including for New Plymouth District Council, Tasman District Council and Environment Canterbury.

Water infrastructure and reform

We have been lead advisors on many of the biggest water, wastewater and stormwater projects of the last decade. These include Watercare’s Central Interceptor, Waikato River second water take, Huia water treatment plant and Pukekohe wastewater treatment plant; discharge consents for both the Auckland stormwater network and Auckland wastewater network; and Palmerston North City Council’s wastewater treatment upgrade. We also advised Christchurch City Council on its global stormwater consent.

We acted for Waikato Regional Council on Change 1 to the Waikato Regional Plan, which proposes to set targets and limits for the Waikato and Waipā rivers.


We have successfully acted for councils and CCOs in many of the leading local authority public law cases in recent years, including:

  • Auckland Council’s accommodation provider targeted rate and its Provisional Local Alcohol Policy, both of which were successfully argued in the Supreme Court
  • Auckland Transport and Auckland Council in a challenge to the Regional Land Transport Plan on climate change grounds
  • Watercare in a challenge to the Auckland Water Supply and Wastewater Network Bylaw
  • Eke Panuku in a NZ Bill of Rights Act challenge to its policies
  • Napier City Council in a challenge to decision-making on the Napier Aquatic Centre
  • Gisborne District Council in a challenge involving land valuation
  • New Plymouth District Council in a matter involving the return of land to tangata whenua
  • Southland District Council in a challenge to a decision allowing access to land for coal exploration
  • Greater Wellington Regional Council in an application for a recount following the 2022 elections
  • South Taranaki District Council in a Supreme Court challenge to decisions to add fluoride to the town water supply.

Infrastructure projects

We advised Treasury and the Department of Internal Affairs on the development of the Infrastructure Funding and Financing Act 2022, a new model for enabling local authorities to fund and finance major infrastructure projects. We are now advising various clients on the implementation of this new legislation.

We are a lead adviser on major projects that are reshaping Auckland including Auckland Light Rail, Eastern Busway, City Rail Link, Central Interceptor, America’s Cup and the Downtown redevelopment

Planning processes

We have been a lead adviser on plan review and plan change processes for many councils across New Zealand, including Auckland Council, Christchurch City Council, Porirua City Council, Queenstown-Lakes District Council, and Tauranga City Council. We are also regular advisors on spatial planning policy exercises (including Future Development Strategies under the NPS-UD), and the related decision-making processes under the Local Government Act 2002.

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