The Sector Policy and Outlook Working Party (SPO) identifies policy issues and trends with the potential to impact on local authorities and/or communities now and in the medium to long-term future, and advises the sector on these issues and trends. The intent is that SPO will act as the sector's thinktank.


  • Monitor developments in the environment (both internal and external to the sector) which affect local authorities,  and provide the Chief Executive with timely identification of these developments.
  • Monitor international literature (journals, websites, blogs) for issues or thinking that is relevant to New Zealand local authorities.
  • Consider the implications of anything identified during the monitoring of activities listed above, for the sector both now, and in the medium term and long term.
  • Present SPO's thinking to the sector in an appropriate manner.
  • Make recommendations of items to include in SOLGM's programme of good.
  • Practice and capability building initiatives.
  • Build relationships with those stakeholders with interests in, or the ability to influence local government's operating environment.

View/download the Sector Policy and Outlook Working Party Terms of Reference.pdf

Current Members


Geoff Williams, Chief Executive - Rotorua Lakes Council

Deputy Chair:

Ross McNeil, Chief Executive - Rangitikei District Council


Blair Bowcott, Executive Director - Special Projects - Hamilton City Council

Rex Capil, Group Manager Community and Futures - Southland District Council.

Denise O'Shaughnessy, Manager Strategic Advice - Auckland Council.

Gillian (Gill) Payne, Strategic Advisor - Western Bay of Plenty District Council

Kathryn Ross, General Manager-Strategic Planning and Policy - Far North District Council.

Urlwyn Trebilco, Principal Strategic Advisor, Strategy - Waikato Regional Council.

2017/18 Report from Sector Policy and Outlook Working Party Chair

Geoff Williams, Chief Executive, Rotorua Lakes Council

I begin this, my first report as Chair of the Sector Policy and Outlook Working Party (SPO) by thanking my predecessor, MaryAnne MacLeod, for her work as Chair of this Working Party up to October last year.

SOLGM's Executive has seen us as the sector's 'think tank' - it's our role to identify the policy issues and trends that are shaping the sector, or may shape the sector in years to come, and to help the sector position itself.

One of our headline products for the year has been the report of last year's 'study tour' to the United Kingdom. The resulting report 'Through the Looking Glass' considers how UK councils were delivering services with dramatically less funding and how relevant practices could be applied in New Zealand. The report found that the burning platform the austerity regime created has driven an efficiency agenda that is well in advance of that which many of us have contemplated. Yet many of the same general approaches - investment in growth-generating assets and places, shared procurement and services and the like are similar. I thank the report's primary author Richard Mabon and the other contributors Steve Ruru, Susan Edwards and Karen Thomas for their work.

In the last financial year we commissioned McGredy Winder to undertake a thought experiment that considered what the future governance, funding and structure of the sector would look like in a world where water and transport were delivered at arm's length from elected decision making. The resulting report Local Government at Arm's Length was released to the sector, first in a webinar and then online in April. This was originally commissioned while the previous Government's Better Local Services reforms were at their zenith, and the report has renewed relevance with structural reforms for water back 'on the table'.

We played a leading role in the development of the SOLGM Briefing to the Incoming Minister. The two-level approach - the strategic 'Managing for the Big Issues' and the more legislatively focused 'Tuning up the Engine' - has been a hit with the Ministers, being described as one of the more cogent and comprehensive offerings officials have seen. I leave it to others to describe the progress that has resulted from this pair of briefings.

No report from us would be complete without mentioning SOLGM's first Climate Change and Local Government Forum held on 21/22 June. This was something of an experiment for SOLGM, even with the support of the Deep South Science Challenge. Despite falling in the same window as the last minute LTP rush, the event attracted more than double the projected registrations, including a far higher than normal level of attendance from outside the sector. The event reflects great credit on SOLGM's Chris Wilson and the other members of the Steering group.

I conclude this year's report by thanking Ross McNeil, Kathryn Ross, Denise O'Shaughnessy, Cameron McIntosh, Rex Capil, Gill Payne, Brandy Griffin, Tanya Winter and Stephen Lamb for their work during the year.