Friday, September 17, 2010

North America Part 1

In 100 words or less please answer the following:

How do the structural differences between the United States Federal government and New Zealand's central government influence the planning process?


  1. Katherine (Katie) Round 4643038September 21, 2010 at 4:47 PM

    The Federal government appears to have an influence in the planning process in terms of providing much needed funding for larger planning projects at the state level. It was raised in the lecture that this funding comes with ‘strings attached’ to ensure that the state and local authorities are consistent with what the federal government departments envisage. From what I gathered the Federal government does not have much influence in the smaller day to day planning processes at the local level which form most of the planning operations.
    New Zealand is similar in nature (excluding the state level government), however central government can also influence local planning processes through National Policy Statements (which require regional and local level acknowledgement within their Plans) and Ministerial call-ins for projects of ‘National Significance'.

  2. Anita Kulasic 4876931

    What I understood from the lecture about North American planning is that the federal government in America has a lot influence for large scale planning projects such as building highways, bridges (such as the one the lecturer mentioned in the OC). However, on smaller projects local level authorities such as councils deal with those planning issues.

    In New Zealand we have a similar approach to planning issues. If a project is of significant national importance such as building a highway central government will step in and either assist councils or they will do it themselves. For small scale planning issues that are of regional or local significance local authorities will deal with them.

    Therefore, how New Zealand deals with planning issues is similar to North America we just don't have a federal government.

  3. I agree with my two colleagues' views above. It appears that funding is the primary mechanism employed by Federal government in the USA, whilst here in NZ central government influences planning by providing regulatory direction for matters of national importance.

    What really strikes me regarding the US system is the fragmentation of duties and the effects of this on the time taken to complete a particular project. In New Zealand we tend to complain about the timespan required for infrastructure works. However, compared to the US, our rationalised planning structure appears to be much more efficient.

  4. As mentioned in the above blogs and from the lecture, it seems that in the United States the Federal Government largely influences planning processes through funding allocation (and subsequent attached activities and programmes) to state authorities. In NZ, Central Government influences the planning processes through regulatory measures (particularly local government (which is a ‘creature of statute’) which delivers many planning outcomes). Also NZ’s Central Government influences the planning process through funding to Local Government and particular planning projects.

    Diverging from the blog topic... I thought it was interesting when Keith talked about the indigenous bands in the United States and how they are (to an extent) independent ‘states’. Although they are not fully self-governing, it is interesting to consider. Particularly in New Zealand with Maori and their desire for self-determination (Tino Rangatiratanga) and having the ability to make decisions in regards to living on and the development of their land (particularly in accordance with traditional Maori planning and environmental values).

  5. Besides plans involving funding incentives, the federal government actually has minimal input into state planning policies. The most obvious implication of this is that individual states can end up with very different planning outcomes. For example, as the lecturer pointed out, California has multiple environmental agencies involved in the planning process, whereas most other states usually just have one. This variation becomes visually evident as you move from state to state and even from region to region within states. For example, in Humboldt County in Northern California, there is a ban on any new commercial fast food structures, but in just one county over, there are heaps. The benefit of this system is that local plans can be adapted to local needs, and potentially allow more citizens to become part of planning processes that will affect them. However, as others stated above, because there are so many levels and checks in this system, the simplest planning project can take years just to be approved. In this way, the system of planning in New Zealand is definitely more efficient. But I don’t know how fair it is to compare the efficiency between these two countries as New Zealand is roughly 1/40 the size of the US with 1/70 of the population.

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  7. I concur with the above comments with regards to funding mechanisms, however the structural difference between NZ and USA is that USA operate under a federal framework where the Constitution gives them significant powers, and everything that is not explicitly given to the Fed Govt are powers given to the States. Since USA structure is made up of 50 states, one capital district and 14 territories this has significant implications on the planning process. These 50 states of which 49 operate under ommon law, 1 under civil law and 14 territories under its own defined relationship within the Fed framework. Fed districts where powers are delegated by congress to that district to control local agendas.
    However funding with strings attached provides a coerced form of planning, which is how the Fed Govt makes the 50 states conform to what the Fed Govt wants them to do. Even though it may or may not be in the States interest to conform, the decision making powers are pretty much taken away from local authorities.

  8. Responses from Keith Hall to posts:

    Katie Round:
    That is true, but I would be more inclined to put New Zealand in the "state" category, in terms of its relationship to local governments on planning matters; it's simply a different governance structure, and states play both a role of intermediary between local-federal as well as the top-tier level of governance on matters involving land use. The NZ government fills both state and federal roles, from the North American perspective. A few states adopt state-level growth strategies that are roughly analogous to National Policy Statements and require consistency across all levels of plans (e.g. Washington State's Growth Strategy). In most states (and including Washington), it is more often true that specific state-level policy goals are encoded into state legislation as a requirement with the force of law and not so much as "policies" developed by state government agencies from local governments and provides for very specific penalties for failing to achieve the outcomes). State government agencies have a greater role in implementation and typically a lesser role in policy matters; elected officials are the policy-makers, not so much the bureaucrats. I can speculate that the reason state policies are enshrined in law may, in part, result from the comfort that city governments have in challenging state governments in the courts (as are states with the federal government), but I can't say this as a matter of fact.

    Anita Kulasic:
    I may need to adjust what I say. This is a mixed truth. In fact, the federal government is involved in the funding and process of major projects (and often minor ones), but most issues are left to the state-local level. The federal government only cares about process; it doesn't care if the road is built or where it is built as long as it meets the criteria and goes through the appropriate decision-making process.


    Sanjay is very correct when it comes to his statement about fragmentation. There are those who complain about the timeframes involved in US projects, but I might argue that, since 1990, the current approach (that has been modified several times) generally works. If speed of delivery is the goal, then the system is a failure. If the goal is to balance the range of complex effects, ensure that all local concerns are heard, and prevent any particular special interest from ramming a project through a community (environmentally sensitive area, etc.), then the system really isn't that bad. It takes a long time to get through a project, but that timeframe offers plenty of opportunity to consider carefully the impacts a project will have and to consider alternative approaches. To that end, the longer timeframes may actually serve a valid planning purpose. I can identify some absurdities in the system, but they are fairly minor and usually involve project changes that manage and adapt to the absurdities. In contrast, I would be hard-pressed to think that any of the projects that have died as a result of this process did, in fact, actually deserve to be built. Those projects that did manage to side-step the process and get built expeditiously are among those considered the biggest failures. In many, many more cases, however, the projects that were built after a great deal of controversy ended up as much better projects with fewer impacts (usually at greater expense, but that is also part of the balancing act).

  9. Nardia Yozin 4677369October 11, 2010 at 5:57 AM

    I feel that New Zealand tries hard to separate national government with local government and only through certain avenues national government can get involved in day-to-day planning processes.
    It seems that both countries national governments will only interfere/get involved in local planning if there is a national interest at stake.
    When looking at the structural difference, the concept of states is very different to New Zealand. The states have more powers than local and regional councils, so I can understand why American central government would use funding to encourage these states to do what they want. I gather that, if a state had that much power they would be more interested in their own agendas and this can/has lead to very different planning systems state-by-state and to an extent conflicting rules and regulations side-by-side.
    In New Zealand you could argue that regional councils try to facilitate consistency (as much as they can) between cities. This is similar to how a state government would control smaller cities within it. However, the main difference there is the amount of power a state government has over its cities but in Regional Councils have limited power. In saying that though, it should be pointed out the size of the American governance system and levels of governance within it in comparison to New Zealand, these structural differences are probably very necessary.

  10. Jake Lawrrnce 4969505

    As most people have identified already it is funding is the primary planning instrument employed by Federal government in the USA with federal funds providing the capital for many planning projects. It seems that this funding does not come with much guidance for state level planning and therefore different states may have radically different planning outcomes. In New Zealand central government also provides funding but I feel that NZs central government has more of an active role providing strategic direction this results in a local level planning system in NZ that is more unified and integrated between each local authority

  11. Anita Palacio 4648584October 30, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    I always find it interesting to compare NZ and the USA because the USA is such a powerhouse. It is hard to say that what is accomplished in the USA can be done in NZ because as was explained the USA has a far greater federal funding systems. That also raises the question do we want to achieve what the USA has?

  12. Minkyung Ko (4801104)November 3, 2010 at 1:28 AM

    In my opinion, these issues of USA are very similar to the issues of Samoa because it also deals with funding and bigger projects and also agree to other people’s comments. The priority issues of USA federal government is funding and process of larger planning project and it is very different to New Zealand government. USA only thinks how they can gather money and build the planning project and what can be done by that money and will be done. On the other hand, in New Zealand, government consider natural environment as priority, for example, what projects can be done with good influences to people and environment as well. Therefore New Zealand has RMA and LGA.

  13. JOnathan - 4890696

    It seems that there are many similarities between the US federal system and New Zealand. In the United States, it is my understanding that the federal government uses funding as a coercive tool to get certain compliance from states and local authorities. However the federal government has no direct influence in the day to day operations of the local authorities. New Zealand is similar to the federal government in the USA as it also uses funding for local authorities as a coercive tool. 95% of all tax in New Zealand is collected by Central Government, therefore it is inevitable that there will be Central-Local gov partnerships, and most often the funding will be connected with achieving some policy objectives. In a sense this is too the fundamental difference, NZ central government has a significantly more hands on approach with local government especially in recent years with the Auckland Governance reformation.

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