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Local Government Commission - Update 1 July 2013

Tena koutou katoa and welcome to the latest Local Government Commission newsletter, issued during Maori Language Week, Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori 2013. 

REORGANISATION PROPOSALS

The Local Government Commission has received four reorganisation applications since the Local Government Act 2002 was amended in December 2012. The Commission has prepared guidelines for making reorganisation applications. The guidelines can be found on the Commission's website. The reorganisation applications received so far affect 22 local authorities with an estimated population of more than 786,000 people.

Northland

Forty-one responses were received after the LGC publicly notified the proposal from the Far North District Council and called for alternative applications.

The original application covered only the Far North District Council. However the LGC considered it also affected Kaipara and Whangarei District Councils and therefore all of the Northland Region, including the Northland Regional Council. The Commissioners 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.

Commissioners Basil Morrison, Grant Kirby and Anne Carter, supported by LGC staff, have visited the region several times to meet councillors, local authority staff, iwi and other key stakeholders. This ongoing information-gathering exercise has also provided the opportunity to update people on the Commission’s processes.

The LGC is now finalising a list of “reasonably practicable options” for local government arrangements in Northland. Under clause 11(5) of Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002, it must be satisfied that any local authority proposed to be established or changed will:

  • have the resources necessary to effectively carry out its responsibilities, duties and powers;
  • have a district or region that is appropriate for the efficient performance of its role;
  • contain one or more distinct communities of interest; and
  • in the case of a regional council or unitary authority, enable effective catchment-based flooding and water management.

Hawke’s Bay

The Local Government Commission issued a public notice in March 2013 calling for alternative applications after ‘A Better Hawke’s Bay’ Trust applied to reorganise local government in the Hawke’s Bay region. Nineteen responses were received.

The Better Hawke’s Bay application is for the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, the Hastings District Council, the Napier City Council, the Wairoa District Council and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to be united into one body – a unitary authority. Some eastern areas of the Rangitikei and Taupo Districts located in the Hawke’s Bay region are also affected.

Last week the Commissioners visited the region to meet councils and the applicant. Other meetings with key stakeholders will occur in the near future. The LGC is continuing to gather information on current local authority arrangements and performance and other issues of relevance, such as communities of interest.

Wairarapa and Wellington

The Local Government Commission has received two reorganisation applications from the Wellington region.

(i) The first application was received from Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa District Councils on 22 May 2013.

The Councils propose the formation of a unitary authority which would also assume responsibilities of the Greater Wellington Regional Council in the Wairarapa.

The LGC agreed to assess the application but deferred other decisions pending the expected receipt of a reorganisation proposal from the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

However Commissioners did decide to declare the districts of Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa; a small part of Tararua District (currently within Wellington Region but proposed to be transferred to Manawatu-Wanganui Region); and the balance of the Wellington Region as affected areas under the application.

The Commission decided the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) would be materially affected in terms of its operational scale, scope and capability under the proposed application.

(ii) On 21 June 2013 the LGC received an application from the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) for reform of local authorities in the wider region. 

The application seeks the formation of a new unitary authority. The authority would assume the powers of the current eight territorial authorities and the regional council. It would be a two-tier structure, with a mayor and a 21-councillor governing body; supported by eight local boards aligned by wards.

In addition to the nine Wellington local authorities (Kapiti Coast District Council, Porirua City Council, Wellington City Council, Hutt City Council, Upper Hutt City Council, South Wairarapa District Council, Carterton District Council, Masterton District Council and the GWRC), a small area of the Tararua District Council and the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council would be affected.

The LGC is assessing the GWRC application to ensure it meets legislative requirements. If so, both the Wairarapa and Greater Wellington applications will be publicly notified together and alternative applications will be sought.

The LGC will continue to assess levels of community support for reorganisation in the Wellington Region and for particular options that may be identified during the process. At each step in this process the Commission will need to continue to satisfy itself on the existence of demonstrable community support.

LOCAL ELECTORAL AMENDMENT BILL

Much of the media coverage of the third reading of the Local Electoral Amendment Bill last week focused on the new disclosure rules for donations to candidates.

However the bill also makes important changes to the setting of local authority electoral boundaries. It reflects the Government’s response to the Local Government Commission’s 2008 statutory review of the Act. The changes will apply to representation reviews carried out prior to the 2016 local elections. It will result in more flexibility for local authorities who want to exceed the +/-10% requirement when setting ward and constituency boundaries. The boundaries can be configured to better recognise communities of interest.

The bill changes aspects of the Representation Review process as follows:

  • Section 19V(3) is amended by adding to the circumstances in which a territorial authority's ward and membership arrangements could fall outside the +/-10% range. In addition to ensuring the effective representation of island or isolated communities of interest exceptions could be made where compliance would limit effective representation by: (i) Dividing a community of interest; or (ii) Combining communities of interest with few commonalities.
  • Any decision not to comply with the +/-10% rule for the above reasons would need to be referred to the Commission for final determination (in the same way as non-compliant regional council reviews must be currently).
  • Very minor boundary alterations to wards, constituencies, communities or subdivisions will be able to be made by councils after three years outside of the representation review process. Any such changes must be referred to the Commission for approval.
  • The Commission must issue guidelines for councils to take into account when determining such minor changes.
  • Initial representation review proposals will not be able to be resolved by councils until 1 March of the year before the year of an election, although preliminary consultation could still take place prior to this date.

The bill was uncontested at its Third Reading and received the Royal Assent on 28 June 2013. A link to the Amendment Act can be found here.

REPRESENTATION REVIEWS

In advance of the local government elections on 12 October 2013, the Local Government Commission this year completed 25 Representation Reviews.

Local authorities are required to review their representation arrangements at least once every six years. Local authorities must review their membership and the basis of their election; and notify the public of their proposals. Any person or organisation may then lodge a written submission to the council. The local authority considers submissions and may amend its proposals.

If an original submitter is still not satisfied they may lodge a written appeal. In addition, any person or organisation may lodge a written objection to a local authority’s amended proposal.

Where there are such appeals or objections the Local Government Commission will determine the council’s membership and basis of election.

The LGC’s 2013 determinations can be found here.

Then determinations affect the following local authorities: Bay of Plenty Regional Council; Central Otago District Council; Gisborne District Council; Hastings District Council; Hauraki District Council; Hawke's Bay Regional Council; Horowhenua District Council; Hutt City Council; Kaipara District Council; Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council; Matamata-Piako District Council; Napier City Council; Northland Regional Council; Otago Regional Council; Palmerston North City Council; Porirua City Council; Southland District Council; Southland Regional Council; Taranaki Regional Council; Tasman District Council; Timaru District Council; Waikato District Council; Wellington City Council; Wellington Regional Council; Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

WEBSITE REDEVELOPMENT

The Local Government Commission has engaged a small Wellington media design company to help redevelop and modernise its website. The LGC wants its website content to be relevant and comprehensible for all users, whether they are specialists from the local government sector, staff in public or private sector agencies, or members of the public. The layout should be easy to navigate. It should also offer a greater range of functions than at present.

As the design phase progresses the LGC will invite a number of external stakeholders to participate in a workshop to offer feedback on our digital presence.

For more information, contact the Commission’s Senior Communications Adviser Kathryn Street, at Kathryn.Street@dia.govt.nz or phone +64 4 4602235.