Local Government Minister Rodney Hide has announced a review of the role of local councils.
Mr Hide leader was addressing the Local Government New Zealand annual conference in Auckland on Monday.
Mr Hide calls the project Smarter Government, Stronger Communities and says it will examine the constitutional status of local government, as well its functions and structure.
He says the move is partly in response to the super-city reforms in Auckland, and pressure for council amalgamations in other areas.
Mr Hide says he is concerned that central government will respond to that pressure in an ad hoc way, and clear principles are needed to assess any calls for change.
A discussion paper will be drawn up, and the process could take two to three years.