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Northland local government - one voice, many communities

Date: 12 November 2013

The need for a single voice for Northland and for local communities to keep their special identities is reflected in a new model of local government proposed for the region.The Local Government Commission has released its draft proposal for reorganisation in Northland, following applications by local authorities and extensive consultation since February. The highlights are:
  • One council and one mayor to speak with a region-wide voice for Northland.
  • A second tier of boards to represent diverse local communities.
  • The name of the new local authority to be Northland Council.
  • It replaces the Far North District Council, Whangarei District Council, Kaipara District Council and Northland Regional Council. The new council would be a unitary authority, combining the functions of the district councils and the regional council.
  • Northland Council would have nine councillors elected from seven wards. The mayor would be elected by all Northland voters.
  • Northland Council would have seven community boards with 42 elected members. The seven council wards and seven community boards would share the same boundaries.
  • The proposed names of the wards and community boards are: Te Hiku (far north), Hokianga-Kaikohe (north-west), Coastal North (north-east), Coastal Central (east), Whangarei (south-east), Coastal South (south-east), and Kaipara (south-west). These names are open to public submission.
  • Northland Council would have a standing committee to ensure the views of the large Māori population are heard. The Māori Board would include elected members of council and representatives of all local iwi. There would also be a Maori Advisory Committee to advise the council committee responsible for issues under the Resource Management Act.
  • Northland Council administrative headquarters would be in the current Whangarei District. The council would also have offices in a further nine towns: Kaitaia, Rawene, Kaeo, Kerikeri, Kaikohe, Kawakawa, Ruakaka, Mangawhai and Dargaville.
  • Existing council debt, rates and other financial arrangements would be ring-fenced to the communities which incurred them or benefit from them.

The Chair of the Local Government Commission, Basil Morrison, said Northland Council and its community boards would have a total of 52 elected representatives: approximately one for every 2,974 people. Current arrangements involve four councils, three mayors, one chair and 61 elected members: one representative for every 2,615 people.

“A whole of Northland approach is designed to bind together all communities to create a stronger strategic vision for the region,” Mr Morrison said.

“One Northland Council would provide more effective advocacy when dealing with central government, public sector agencies and commercial interests. It would create simplified and streamlined processes for residents and ratepayers.”

“At the same time, community boards recognise the diverse local communities of the region. The Boards would be empowered to make decisions on matters that directly affect their local communities.”

“The Commission has acknowledged concerns about the potential for uneven or unfair rates across the region. There will be targeted rates for properties in areas which have benefitted from certain council projects.”

“The whole of Northland approach coupled with the region-wide layer of community boards meets the purpose and principles of good local government. It enables democratic local decision-making, it meets the future needs for good quality infrastructure, services and regulatory oversight, and it is cost effective,” Mr Morrison said.

Next steps – public submissions

The Local Government Commission is calling for public submissions on the draft proposal.

The document can be found on the Commission’s website www.lgc.govt.nz. It will also be supplied to local councils who will be encouraged to make copies available in council offices and public libraries. Digital copies can be obtained by emailing info@lgc.govt.nz. Guidelines for how to make a submission are included on page 53 of the draft proposal.

The deadline for submissions is 14 February 2014. The Commission intends to hold public hearings in Northland and submitters can appear in person if they wish.

Further background to the reorganisation process can be found at the Local Government Commission website: www.lgc.govt.nz

Note for editors

The Local Government Commission is an independent body which makes decisions on local authority electoral matters and applications to change boundaries, functions and areas of local authorities. The Commissioners are Basil Morrison, Grant Kirby and Anne Carter. They are appointed by the Minister of Local Government. The legislation governing reorganisation of local authorities, Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002, can be accessed here.