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Council decisions are made in several ways, but the central decision-making process happens in council meetings. With council approval, certain decisions can also be made under delegation by council officers or by special committees.

The Local Government Act 1989 states that a council decision may only be made at a properly constituted council meeting or under council delegation. Neither the mayor nor individual councillors have the legal authority to act or make decisions on behalf of the council.


Council decisions are made by the votes of the majority of councillors present at a meeting. Most of the requirements for council meetings are set out in the Act or in local laws.

Meetings are open to the public unless they are held in camera for specific reasons which are outlined in Section 89 (2) of the Act.


As it is impractical for every issue to go to a full council meeting, councils delegate many matters to special committees and council officers. This allows a council to use its formal meetings to deal with the most important and strategic decisions.

The council cannot direct its delegate to make a decision in a particular way. However, if the council considers that a delegated decision requires higher-level consideration it can ‘call-in’ the decision. When this happens, the council makes the decision instead of the delegate. Councils usually have formal procedures for this.

Special committees

Special committees can include any combination of councillors, council staff and other people.  Some committees with significant responsibilities are comprised partly or entirely of councillors (for example, planning committees). Other committees, which are comprised largely of community members, have lower-level responsibilities such as the management of community halls.

The decision-making powers of a special committee are established under Section 86 of the Local Government Act. The committee must also operate under other provisions of the Act, including conflict of interest.

Council officers

Councils delegate many lower-level and operational decisions to council officers. This is mostly done by delegating powers to the Chief Executive officer who then passes the delegation on to the appropriate officer. These delegations are usually subject to the policies and procedures adopted by the council.


“Council decisions can only be made at a formal meeting or by delegation.”