Home » Commission news & contact information » Newsletter » Local Government Commission - Update 19 February 2014

Local Government Commission - Update 19 February 2014

Greetings and welcome to the first Local Government Commission newsletter of the year.

Since our last newsletter in late November 2013 we have been busy with the reorganisation processes affecting Northland, Hawke’s Bay and Wellington Regions. Two new reorganisation applications have been received, regarding Auckland, Nelson and Tasman Councils.

The Commission has also gained valuable firsthand advice about the Australian experience of amalgamation.

REORGANISATION PROPOSALS

Northland

The deadline for public submissions on the Commission’s draft proposal is Friday 21 February. The Commission will spend some time analysing the content of the submissions and anticipates releasing a summary document once public hearings begin.

Public hearings in Northland are anticipated to commence in the first week of March.

Hawke’s Bay

Public submissions on the Commission’s draft proposal close on Friday 7 March. A summary document which analyses the content of the submissions will be prepared and released once public hearings begin.

It is anticipated public hearings in Hawke’s Bay will begin in the second week of April.

Wellington Region (including Wairarapa)

The Commission is continuing to analyse information from a wide range of sources as it determines reasonably practicable options for the Wellington Region. It has had good co-operation from councils in the region as it scrutinises the options. As per the legislation, the status quo is automatically included as one of the reasonably practicable options.

The Commission anticipates being able to make a decision on the applications from Wairarapa and Wellington councils, and the alternative applications, during the first half of April.

OTHER REORGANISATION APPLICATIONS

North Rodney

On 4 November the Commission received an application from the Northern Action Group for the Northern Rodney area, currently part of Auckland, to form a separate unitary authority.

On 4 and 5 February the Commission met representatives of the Northern Action Group at Snell's Beach. It also met elected members and officials of the Auckland Council, including the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Rodney Ward Councillor and Chair of the Rodney Local Board, as well as a number of council officers.

The next step is for the Commission to decide whether or not to assess the application.

Nelson-Tasman

On 25 November the Commission received an application from Rick Farr for the union of Nelson City and Tasman District.

The next step is for the Commission to decide whether or not to assess the application.

AUSTRALIAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT DISCUSSIONS

The Commission Chair Basil Morrison and Chief Executive Donald Riezebos recently held talks with senior representatives of Australian local government.

The President and Chief Executive of the Australian Local Government Association, Felicity-Ann Lewis and Adrian Beresford-Wylie, visited Wellington in early February. The Association is the national voice of almost 600 councils across all states and territories.

Donald Riezebos said the discussions traversed several areas, including reorganisation and amalgamation.

“It’s fair to say there is one key difference in our experiences. The Australian amalgamations are driven by state government policies, especially in Queensland and Western Australia. Local authorities in those states are doing their best to respond to changes imposed from above. In New Zealand the process is quite different. The reorganisation applications have come from the affected areas themselves. In Northland and Wellington the proposals actually came from the local authorities,” Mr Riezebos said.

Adrian Beresford-Wylie, Felicity-Ann Lewis, Basil Morrison, Donald Riezebos

Left to right: Adrian Beresford-Wylie, Felicity-Ann Lewis, Basil Morrison, Donald Riezebos.

WHAT IS A ‘WORKING DAY’?

The Commission has received inquiries regarding the time allowed for public submissions on its draft proposal for Northland. Some correspondents have cited the difficulty of preparing a submission over the summer months. The Commission believes it may be helpful to explain the background to its timeframe.

The draft proposal was released on 12 November 2013. The original deadline of 14 February 2014 was extended on the request of Northland local authorities to 21 February.

The Commission looked for guidance from relevant legislation, in particular the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA). The Commission also considered other precedents, such as the holiday break observed by central government agencies.

The definition of “working day” in the RMA excludes the period 20 December to 10 January, and in this case, Waitangi Day. The same definition in the LGA excludes the period 25 December to 2 January. The core public service is expected to operate at full strength once the Prime Minister chairs the first Cabinet meeting of the year, in this case, 21 January 2014.

Bearing all of these factors in mind, the Commission decided it was important to allow a period of at least six to eight ‘clear’ weeks for public submissions. The Commission calculated a holiday break of Saturday 21 December 2013 to Monday 20 January 2014, inclusive. In effect, this created a submission period of more than nine calendar weeks, or around 50 working days.

NEW MINISTERS IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO

Hon Paula Bennett and Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga are the new Minister and Associate Minister of Local Government after a Cabinet reshuffle in January. The Commission congratulates the new ministers and extends its best wishes to the former minister, Hon Chris Tremain, as he prepares for his next career outside Parliament.

Paula Bennett now takes charge of shepherding the Local Government Amendment Bill (No. 3) through its remaining stages in the House. As mentioned in our November newsletter, the bill is of considerable interest to the Commission because of its proposed new provisions for local boards.

PROVINCIAL HOLIDAYS

The Commission wishes a happy anniversary to the large number of regions which marked provincial holidays over the past couple of months.

The provincial holidays highlight some of the earliest forms of local government in New Zealand. Some even pre-date the formal establishment of the provinces in 1852. Provincial superintendents could create local holidays simply by closing the provincial offices for the day.

From the early 1840s the provinces commemorated the arrival of Pakeha settlers with events such as regattas, fireworks displays, cricket matches and even sack races. It wasn’t till the 1873 Bank Holidays Act that the first statutory holidays, for Easter, Christmas and the Queen’s birthday, were created through legislation.

Between December and February provincial anniversaries are marked in Westland, Canterbury, Wellington, Manawatu-Wanganui, Auckland, Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Nelson and Tasman. The regions of Otago, Southland and Taranaki mark their provincial anniversaries next month, although Southland mayors have agreed their day should be observed on Easter Tuesday.

SOURCE: Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.