The purpose of the SOLGM Democracy and Governance Support Working Party (DGS)

  1. Assist the local government sector to achieve high standards in the conduct of democracy services and governance support activity.
  2. Assist the local government sector to achieve high standards in the planning, management and conduct of elections and polls under the Local Electoral Act 2001.
  3. In conjunction with other agencies, enhance public understanding of the role of local democracy within New Zealand’s system of governance, and public participation of local democracy.


  • Monitor the environment within which local authorities operate for relevant issues impacting on the democracy and governance support function including proposed legislative change and developments in overseas jurisdictions
  • Prepare and present submissions to appropriate organisations and Ministers representing local government sector concerns from a management and operational perspective.
  • Provide advice to local authorities and Electoral Officers on issues within its area of focus. This may involve the preparation of good practice guidance, tools and training
  • Participate in programmes that build community understanding of, and capacity to contribute to, the local democratic process.
  • Participate in, or undertake, national programmes to help promote awareness of and participation in local elections and polls, subject to the approval of the Chief Executive.
  • Develop and maintain cooperative working relationships with the local government sector and other organisations that have related interests

View/download the Democracy and Governance Support Working Party Terms of Reference.

Current Members


David Ward, Chief Executive - Selwyn District Council

Deputy Chair; Chair of the Electoral Subcommittee:

Dean Heiford, Manager Economic, Community & Support Services - Marlborough District Council


Marguerite Delbet, General Manager Democracy Services - Auckland Council

Anusha Guler, Head of Governance - Wellington City Council

Natalie Palmer, Unit Manager, Communication and Engagement - Hamilton City Council 

Francis Ryan, Manager Democratic Services - Greater Wellington

Julie Straka, Governance Lead - New Plymouth District Council

Yvonne Tatton, Governance Manager - Bay of Plenty Regional Council

Electoral Subcommittee (ESUB)

DGS has an Electoral Subcommittee which provides advice on local body electoral matters to councils and electoral officers. ESUB meetings have representatives from the Ministry of Health, Department of Internal Affairs, Local Government New Zealand, the Electoral Commission, Local Government Commission, and New Zealand Post. 

SOLGM Electoral Subcommittee:


Dean Heiford, Manager Economic, Community & Support Services, Marlborough District Council

Deputy Chair:

Anusha Guler, Head of Governance - Wellington City Council


Mali Ahipene, Manager Democracy Services - Waikato Regional Council

Rick Dunn, Governance Lead - Rotorua District Council

Warwick Lampp, Electoral Officer -

Mark Low, Corporate Planning Manager - Timaru District Council

Sarah Nichols, Governance Manager and Deputy Electoral Officer - Waimakariri District Council

Dale Ofsoske, Electoral Officer - Election Services Ltd.

Clare Sullivan, Governance and Democracy Manager - Southland District Council

Mary Birch, Manager Governance and Support - Nelson City Council

2017/18 Report from the Democracy and Governance Support Working Party Chair

David Ward, Chief Executive, Selwyn District Council

I would like to start my report by acknowledging and thanking my predecessor, Geoff Williams, for his work as this Working Party’s Establishment Chair.

My Deputy, Dean Heiford, will report separately on the work of our Electoral Subcommittee. I would like to make a few comments about some of the more strategic elements of the electoral work programme.

The first is online voting. As I write this a ‘club’ of around 12 councils (depending on how you count) are taking the first steps as a group towards an online voting trial in 2019. SOLGM and LGNZ made an attempt at a sector-led approach and devoted considerable staff time to getting this project up and running. Considerable progress was made with setting service standards and in clearing the small number of legislative blockages to a trial (the Local Electoral Matters Bill is one output from this work). The sector-led approach has foundered for want of a clear commitment from central government and from the sector to fund and support the work. SOLGM will help this smaller club of councils to complete their trial.

The second is around electoral participation and communications. I am very pleased to report that LGNZ and SOLGM have agreed to a joined-up approach to election communications under a Vote 2019 tagline and brand. The two organisations have also agreed to develop a programme of more strategically focused work aimed at re-engaging citizens - this has been given additional impetus by the Minister’s interest in what might loosely be called ‘civics’.

The media, and some in our communities, focus on electoral turnout as an indicator of a healthy local democracy. While it is a far from perfect measure, building participation in local democracy is one of the reasons this group was formed.

We’ve played a full part in SOLGM’s work with both the former and current government’s legislative and policy agenda. This has included the Local Electoral Matters Bill, the Community Well-being Bill and the upcoming Regulatory Systems Bill. We also played a role in developing the SOLGM briefing package for the incoming Government.

The Democracy and Governance Support Working Party (DGS) has oversight of the annual SOLGM Governance Professionals and Committee Advisors event. The DGS tried a number of new things in 2017 to invigorate an event that had become a little ‘tired’. The audience feedback strongly suggests we had a ‘hit’, with all 40 of those who completed the evaluations giving the event a high rating for usefulness of learning and the overall ‘experience’. It was a job very well done. As this report goes to press the 2018 edition is just days away.

I thank Deputy Chair Dean Heiford, Melissa Brook, Marguerite Delbet, Anusha Guler, Francis Ryan, Julie Straka and Fleur Sweeney for their contributions over the last year.