LAWPUBL 740 - Local Government Law

Lecturer biography

Ken Palmer’s teaching and research interests include environmental law, resource management law, and local government law. In the earlier part of his career, following the obtaining of LLM degrees from the Auckland Law School and Harvard Law School, he was appointed a lecturer in criminal law, and introduced the subject of civil rights. After completing the SJD degree at the University of Virginia in 1976, the research thesis was revised for publication of the texts Local Government Law, and Planning Law in New Zealand, 1977. Between 1978 and 1988, Ken was the editor of New Zealand Recent Law, a monthly journal published by the Legal Research Foundation. In 1984, a two volume update of the Planning Law book was published titled Planning and Development Law in New Zealand, and a second addition of Local Government Law in New Zealand was published 1993. Ken contributed two chapters to the Laws of New Zealand publication, comprising "Resource Management Law" (1995) and "Ports and Harbours", (2000). In 1993, Local Government Law in New Zealand (2nd ed) was published. In 2012, a revised text, Local Authorities Law in New Zealand (Brookers) was published.

In 1997, Ken was the foundation editor of the New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law, and has remained the editor of the annual publication through volume 21 (2017). That journal, published by the Law School, has gained an international reputation. Ken was also a founding member of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law based at the Auckland Law School.

More recently, Ken has revised four chapters in D Nolan, Environmental and Resource Management Law, LexisNexis 6th ed 2017. That major text has been published as a loose leaf/online edition. Ken has contributed chapter 15 on “compulsory land acquisition and compensation” in E Toomey ed, New Zealand Land Law, Thomson Reuters (3nd ed 2017).

Ken has made submissions to Parliamentary committees and local authorities. He has experience representing parties in the Environment Court and the High Court. He has promoted the teaching of environmental law for non-lawyers, and the expansion of the masters programme to allow for entry by persons without a law background. Those students may take the degree Master of Legal Studies (Environmental).

Course outline

Local government is a constitutional part of many legal systems. In New Zealand, local government has a function of governance of regions and districts under powers conferred by central government. Local authorities are elected corporate bodies, and are a significant employer. Local authorities govern regions, districts and unitary areas, and implement policies and services in respect of water supply, waste water disposal, waste management, roads, public reserves, public works, bylaws administration (and planning administration), community services provision. In certain areas, local boards or committees may be constituted. Councils provide for land valuation and set rates to fund functions and activities, and may borrow money. Councils may use council-controlled organisations to provide services. The subject focuses primarily on the purposes and structure of local authorities and the legal powers and obligations to achieve the purposes.


The subject will include a study of the following aspects:

  • History and reform of local government, Auckland Council
  • Legal status and powers of local authorities
  • Selected aspects of civil liability
  • Local elections, Maori constituencies
  • Council procedures, policy, plans and decision-making, financial accountability
  • Meetings and public information access, Ombudsmen function
  • Employment obligations outline
  • Work tendering and contracts
  • Land valuation and rating options, other funding options
  • Bylaws and licensing, roads and public reserves
  • Related administrative and community functions, civil defence
  • Council-controlled organisations
  • (due to time and scope constraints, RMA functions will not be covered)


The aim of the course is to introduce or provide participants with an insight into all local government functions, law and policy elements. The role and potential of local government in relation to central government and private enterprise will be explored. Participants will be able to discuss related political and local issues.

Learning outcomes

In accordance with the course objectives, participants should acquire improved knowledge and understanding of the roles and powers of local authorities and an appreciation of the wider factors affecting delivery of the policies and outcomes for communities. This learning may support participation in local government as an elected member, an officer or employee, or as an adviser to local interest groups and to business.

Assessment and marking

  1. 100% for research essay of 6,500 words
  2. Essay due 12pm, Friday 1 June 2018

Participants will be individually assessed on the quality of their work with reference to the following criteria:

  • The extent to which the student has identified the important and relevant issues
  • The depth and thoroughness of understanding of the relevant course materials
  • The strength and clarity of the discourse or arguments presented
  • The extent to which issues are placed in their wider context
  • The extent to which any doctrinal and normative issues (if relevant) are considered
  • Any conclusions or recommendations drawn or advanced
  • The inclusion of footnotes and a bibliography

Reading materials

Reading materials will be contained in the Casebook, and study guides.

Primary statutes considered:

  • Local Government Act 2002 (as amended)
  • Local Electoral Act 2001
  • Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009
  • Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987
  • Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act 1968
  • Rating Valuations Act 1998
  • Local Government (Rating) Act 2002
  • Bylaws Act 2010
  • Land Transport Management Act 2003
  • Reserves Act 1977

Primary reference text

Kenneth Palmer Local Authorities Law in New Zealand (Brookers, 2012)

Relevant websites

Teaching method

Topics for classes will be introduced by short powerpoint presentations. Discussion of issues will follow. No lecture notes will be issued on Canvas or printed. The reference text contains subject details.


Semester: Semester One
First half of semester
Day: Tuesday
Time: 5-8pm
Location: Auckland Law School
Building 810, Level 3, Room 3.40
1-11 Short Street
Auckland 1010
Points: 15

Contact details

Postgraduate Student Adviser
Student Centre
Faculty of Law
Building 810, Level 2, 1-11 Short Street


Lecturer contact
Dr Kenneth Palmer, Research Fellow
Building 801, Level 4, Room 4.15
9 Eden Crescent
Auckland 1010