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Local Government Commission issues reminder of deadline for alternative applications for reorganisation in Northland Region

Date: 11 Apr 2013

The Local Government Commission has issued a reminder of the deadline for alternative applications regarding the reorganisation of local government in the Northland Region.

In early March the Commission issued a public notice seeking alternative applications from any group, person or organisation in relation to the application by the Far North District Council to become a unitary authority.

Interested or affected parties were given twenty working days to make alternative applications. That deadline expires on 15 April 2013.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Local Government Commission, Donald Riezebos, said three alternative applications have been received so far by the Commission. More information will be released after the 15 April deadline for all alternative applications.

Applications should be sent to:

Donald Riezebos

Chief Executive Officer

Local Government Commission

PO Box 5362, Wellington

or

info@lgc.govt.nz

Background

The application by the Far North District Council is to combine both regional and district council responsibilities in one body: a unitary authority. Although the application covers only the Far North District Council, the Local Government Commission considers it 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.

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. In those cases, each council carries out separate types of services and has separate regulatory and planning responsibilities.

The process for changing local government structures, boundaries and functions is set out in Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002. Under the Act there are a number of distinct steps that must be followed.

The stages of the process in relation to the Far North application are:

  • After the deadline of 15 April the Commission will consider any alternative applications alongside the Far North application and alongside the status quo (the existing arrangements).
  • 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

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.