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Changes to the release of annual local authority financial statistics

bullet icon.  Back to Annual local authority financial statistics: Year ended June 2009


Annual financial information about individual local authorities in New Zealand comes from the annual Local Authority Census (LAC). In 2009, Statistics NZ and the Department of Internal Affairs worked together to redesign the existing annual census. A larger range of activity and transaction information was introduced with the aim of having the redesigned LAC questionnaire align more closely with the way councils record this data in their accounting systems. The redesign also changed the survey’s reporting format from hard copy to electronic.

Impact on published data items

Current and capital grants, subsidies, and donations

Additional data items collected in the Local Authority Census from 2009 has led to a better split of 'grants, subsidies, and donations' income and expenditure into those for capital versus operational (current) purposes. This improvement is reflected in the tables. However, it is difficult to make comparisons for certain data items over time. Before 2009, results for 'capital grants, subsidies, and donations' are likely to be included in 'current grants, subsidies, and donations' for some local authorities. While this change will affect the time series for 'operating surplus/deficit' and 'surplus/deficit including non-operating transactions', it will not affect the overall surplus or deficit ('surplus/deficit including non-operating and capital transactions'). It is not possible to quantify the value involved although it is likely to be more significant for income than it is for expenditure.

Activity allocation of rates income

Local authorities have different ways of collecting rates – targeted rates for specific activities and general rates. General rates are not always allocated to activities by local authorities. From 2009, the Local Authority Census collected targeted and general rates separately. Where general rates have not been allocated to activities they will appear in the activity 'council support services'. In the years before 2009, attempts were made to allocate total rates across activities. While this change in allocation treatment affects a number of the activity operating surplus/deficits, it is more reflective of how some activities are funded through general rates or funding transfers within a local authority.

Changes to the presentation of published output

  • New tables have been added showing total transactions, activity, and financial position across all local authorities.
  • Table formats have changed to improve readability, usability, and allow time series analysis.
  • A number of data items have been renamed to better reflect the transactions included within them.
  • Footnotes are now included, with some tables highlighting changes in composition over the time series.

    Changes to income and expenditure tables 

  • The format of the income and expenditure tables has changed to allow better understanding of the composition of income and expenditure and the relative contribution that particular groups of transactions make to an overall surplus or deficit. This economic (rather than accounting) presentation separates the current (or operational) income and expenditure transactions from the non-current.
  • ’Interest income’ and ’dividend income’ are now separately identified. Dividend income now includes a council's share of profits or losses from associates.
  • The previous output item ‘net non-operating items’ has been split into its corresponding income and expenditure variables, with separate data now available for development and financial contributions; and vested assets.
  • A range of surplus/deficit items and net balances have also been added to the income and expenditure tables. These additions clarify how the different sources of local authority income and expenditure contribute to an overall surplus or deficit.

    Changes to activity tables

  • The range of activities shown in the ‘Total income and expenditure by activity’ tables has increased.
    Activities now include ‘community development’, ‘economic development’, ‘council support services’, and ‘other activities’. In most cases these four activities were previously included in ‘governance’.
  • ‘Culture’ and ‘recreation and sport’ are now presented as separate activities.
  •  Individual-year activity tables have also been combined to present time series data and allow users to analyse longer-term movements. An operating surplus or deficit is now calculated for each activity indicating how specific activities are funded through general (rather than targeted) rates or through funding transfers within a local authority.

    Changes to financial position tables

  • The previous pivot table formats have been replaced with time series tables.
  • The format of the financial position tables has been changed to allow better understanding of component groups of assets and liabilities.

Technical notes

Descriptions of the data items and activities in the published output tables (and an explanation of the coverage of these statistics) can be found in the ‘Technical notes'.



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