The Government is being urged to develop a national plan to ensure growth is spread more evenly through the regions.
Local Government New Zealand wants a joint plan with central government, fearing that many regions will be hollowed out if growth remains focussed on the main centres.
President Lawrence Yule says outside a handful of areas such as Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown, many regions are static or in decline and competing with each other, and there is no regional development plan for New Zealand.
"Our youngest and brightest are looking at larger population bases to go to and that's very inefficient for New Zealand in the long term."
Mr Yule says the Government can ensure more balanced growth by directing its spending more evenly and helping regions make the most of their strengths.
"A 50-seat call centre for a government department is largely lost in Wellington but it'll make a huge difference to Timaru."
Local bodies plan to make the idea an election year issue, and will canvass all political parties to gain support.