About the Local Democracy Reporting service

The Local Democracy Reporting (LDR) project is a free public interest news service focusing exclusively on stories about publicly appointed or elected officials or bodies. 

This includes but isn’t limited to local councils (including district and regional councils), council committees, community boards, council-owned commercial enterprises, district health boards, local trusts, port and airport authorities, and Māori incorporations and trusts.  

The brief is to report on the decision-making process: what decisions are made in the public’s name and how are they arrived at; what evidence is presented to the councils, etc. 

The service has been launched by RNZ, the News Publishers’ Association and NZ On Air to strengthen local democracy reporting, given the significant pressure facing local newsrooms due to digital disruption. 

All content generated must be made available to all qualifying media partners, simultaneously and in a timely manner. 

The LDR service is beginning as a year-long trial or pilot.

Where will the stories come from?

Eight local democracy reporters are being recruited for the service and will be placed in regional newsrooms affiliated with the News Publishers’ Association. They will be employed directly by those newsrooms and report to the local editors.

RNZ will administer the service.

The reporters' work is ring-fenced, so they cannot be diverted to other stories. They will be experienced journalists and will be given training to meet basic RNZ standards in terms of balance, accuracy, objectivity and impartiality - as well as multimedia storytelling.

In the first year, the service will start by covering Northland, South Auckland, Rotorua, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki and Kawerau, Tairāwhiti/Gisborne, Wairarapa, Marlborough and the West Coast.

If it becomes a permanent service, these regions may change.

How do New Zealand media companies apply to become partners and access the content?

Media wishing to publish or broadcast the service’s content on their own platforms need to satisfy basic criteria. Sign-up information can be found here.

In short, you will need to agree to our content terms, and provide evidence that you are a genuine media organisation providing a reputable news service to an established audience.

You will need to be subject to regulation by the NZ Media Council or the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Who runs the service?

The service is being administered by the LDR Manager, Nina Fowler, who is based at RNZ’s office in Wellington.

It is a partnership between RNZ, NZ On Air and the News Publishers’ Association, and if successful the objective is to turn it into a permanent service from its second year.

Funding for the first year is $1 million and has come from the RNZ/NZ On Air Joint Innovation Fund.

The service is modelled on a similar one run by the BBC in the UK.