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Responses to Far North local government reorganisation

Date: 16 April 2013

Thirty-nine individuals, organisations and groups have responded to the Local Government Commission’s call for alternative applications regarding the reorganisation of the Northland Region.

The Commission issued a public notice in early March calling for alternative applications after the Far North District Council applied to combine regional and district council responsibilities in one body: a unitary authority.

The 39 responses are now being assessed by the Commission and are as follows:

  • 28 from private individuals
  • 3 from lobby or interest groups
  • 3 from iwi
  • 2 from community groups
  • 2 from Councils
  • 1 from a current District Councillor

Alternative applications are required to meet certain legislative requirements. For example they must explain what the proposed changes seek to achieve; the potential improvements that would result; and how the changes would promote good local government. Alternative applications are not the same as a public submission. The opportunity for public submissions occurs at a later stage of the process, if the Commission decides to prepare a draft proposal.

Background

The Far North District Council application covers only the Far North District Council. However the Local Government Commission considers the application also affects Kaipara and Whangarei District Councils, and therefore all of the Northland Region. The Commission determined that the formation of a unitary authority in the Far North District could materially affect the operational scale, scope and capability of other councils and could ultimately thus affect residents and ratepayers in the Northland Region.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Local Government Commission, Donald Riezebos, said the process for changing local government structures, boundaries and functions is set out in Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002. Mr Riezebos said there are a number of distinct steps that must be followed and the process in relation to the Far North application is:

  • The Commission will now consider the responses, alongside the Far North application and alongside the status quo (the existing arrangements).
  • The Commission must identify reasonably practicable options for local government in the affected area.
  • If it does not select the existing arrangements as its preferred option, the Commission will prepare a draft proposal. It will publicly notify the draft proposal and call for submissions.
  • The Commission will consider submissions, consult and undertake any further investigations before deciding whether to proceed further.
  • If it does decide to proceed, the Commission will prepare a final proposal which will be publicly notified. A period of 60 working days will be allowed for responses, for example a petition seeking a poll.
  • A petition of 10% or more of electors in any one of the affected districts is able to trigger a poll.
  • If more than 50% of those voting in the poll support the proposal, or if no poll is called for, the final proposal will be implemented and the proposed changes will take place. If the proposal attracts support from 50% or fewer of those voting, the reorganisation proposal will lapse.

In any event, no change would be made before the next local authority elections in October 2013. Guidelines on the reorganisation process are available at www.lgc.govt.nz

There are five unitary authorities in New Zealand: Auckland, Gisborne, Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman. Auckland is the most recent council to combine the two levels of local authority functions. The others became unitary authorities at varying times: Gisborne 1989; and Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman in 1992. The Chatham Islands Council also effectively operates as a unitary authority, as it is not within a region.

All other local authorities in the country work under a two tier framework of regional and district councils which have separate regulatory and planning responsibilities.

Media enquiries

Donald Riezebos

Chief Executive Officer

Local Government Commission

Phone 04 494 0657

Note for editors

The Local Government Commission is an independent body tasked with making decisions on local authority electoral matters and all applications relating to changes to existing boundaries, functions and areas of local authorities. Its members 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.