Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Pacific \ Local government in small states

SSmall states are defined as countries with less than 1.5 million inhabitants (including small island states and small island developing states - SIDS). Small states make up more than half of the 53 Commonwealth member countries. They face a particular set of challenges including governance, managing vulnerability and remoteness, dealing with limited economic opportunities, and dealing with the impact of climate change



Governance at the Local Level in Melanesia – Absent the State


At independence the three Melanesian states of the Pacific Islands region – Papua New Guinea (1975), Solomon Islands (1978) and Vanuatu (1980) – opted for decentralised systems of government. In all cases a three-tier system of national, provincial and local government was introduced, although the specific arrangements and allocation of powers differed substantially. Since that time there has been a good deal of analysis about the policy processes of decentralisation itself and about the effectiveness (or otherwise) of national-level governance in these countries; but until recently little has been written about the lower levels.This short article surveys some of the recent research and commentary on local-level governance relating particularly to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Solomon Islands. It focuses on both the poor condition of formal local-level government as well as on the rise of informal governance-type activity at the local level which might be described as ‘civil society in formation’.


Author: David Hegarty Publisher: university of Technology, Sydney Publication year: may 2009

Governing the Outer Islands: Decentralisation in Kiribati and Tuvalu

For over a decade the governments of Kiribati and Tuvalu have adopted decentralisation policies to strengthen the role of local-level authorities in development. This can be seen as a response to both domestic policy drivers and global trends. However, while Kiribati and Tuvalu share a common past and many of the same development issues, the decentralisation process has taken distinct paths in the two countries. This paper takes stock of the Kiribati and Tuvalu experience, drawing on research, country-specific project evaluations and practitioner perspectives. It focuses on local governance at the outer island level and examines three dimensions of the decentralisation process: policy drivers; central-local relations; and integration of traditional and modern institutions of governance.

Author: Phil Richardson Publisher: university of Technology, Sydney Publication year: january 2009

Empowerment of local government in New Zealand: a new model for contemporary local-central relations?

Since 2000 intergovernmental relations in New Zealand have been evolving rapidly as a result of a significant shift in government policy discourse towards a strong central-local government partnership. New statutory provisions empowering local government to promote social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing have significant implications for the range of activities in which local authorities are engaged. In turn, this has consequences for the relationship between local government and central government. The effectiveness of the new empowerment and the prospects for further strengthening of the role of local government are critically examined. Despite some on-going tensions, and an inevitable mismatch in the balance of power between central and local government, it is argued that there is a discernible rebalancing of intergovernmental relations as a result of new legislation and central government policy settings which reflect a ‘localist turn’. On the basis of developments since 2000 it may be argued that the New Zealand system of local government is evolving away from the recognised ‘Anglo’ model. However, further consolidation is needed in the transformation of intergovernmental relations and mechanisms that will cement a more genuine central-local government partnership. 

Author: Christine Cheyne Publisher: University of Technology, Sydney Publication year: 2008

Institutional Barriers to Developing Community Indicators in New Zealand: A Preliminary Assessment

There has been enormous activity in many countries and by international agencies during the last few decades to develop indicators to measure trends in different attributes of the environment, including indicators for community wellbeing and for sustainable development. Identifying appropriate indicators of economic, social, environmental, cultural and democratic progress across local government boundaries, as a basis for a strategy to enhance community governance, and as part of a national system of sustainability indicators, is a challenging task. An important dimension that is implicit rather than explicit in the current literature is the significance of institutional barriers to developing indicators. Informed by recent New Zealand experiences, our objective in this paper is to examine those institutional barriers within the context of achieving the wider objectives of the New Zealand Local Government Act 2002 to strengthen participatory democracy and community governance, and the ‘whole-of-government’ sustainable development paradigm that underpins it. We argue that the significance of undertaking the task of indicator development in a collaborative and participatory as well as technically satisfactory manner should not be under-estimated.

Author: Ali Memon, Karen Johnston Publisher: University of Technology, Sydney Publication year: 2008

Commonwealth Local Government Forum Pacific Project

The Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Pacific Project works with local government and other stakeholders in nine Pacific Island countries – Cook Islands, Fiji Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. It seeks to strengthen local democracy and good governance, and to help local governments deal with the increasing challenges of service delivery and urban management in the unique Pacific environment.Human settlement patterns in the region are changing rapidly. The Pacific has traditionally been a rural agricultural/subsistence society, but this is no longer the case. The accelerated pace of urbanisation has impacted significantly on Pacific nations and in the very near future the majority of Pacific Islanders will be found in urban areas. Already over 50% of Fiji’s population are urban dwellers. Rapid urbanisation brings with it unique challenges and opportunities. Local governments are at the forefront of this phenomenon, with the responsibility to manage urban development and the transition from rural areas to cities and towns. Their success or failure to manage urbanisation and provide the required levels of physical and social infrastructure will affect many lives in a new urban Pacific.The project now has three components – the main Pacific Regional Project and two country-specific programmes: the Honiara City Council Institutional Capacity Building Project and the Commonwealth Local Government Good Practice Scheme in Papua New Guinea.

Author: Terry Parker, Megan Praeger Publisher: University of Technology, Sydney Publication year: 2008

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