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Local Government Commission - Update 29 November 2013

This edition of the Local Government Commission newsletter focuses on the draft proposals for Northland and Hawke’s Bay reorganisation released in early November.

The draft proposals are the first such documents released by the LGC since the Local Government Act 2002 was amended in December 2012, creating a new process for local authority reorganisations.

The newsletter does not reproduce the draft proposals due to space restrictions but does provide links to the relevant LGC website pages.

REORGANISATION PROPOSALS

Northland

On 12 November the Commissioners Basil Morrison, Anne Carter and Grant Kirby addressed an audience of more than 100 Northland stakeholders at Waitangi, to explain the draft proposal for reorganisation.

The Far North and Whangarei mayors John Carter and Sheryl Mai, the Regional Council Chair Bill Shepherd and the Kaipara Commissioner John Robertson, together with their senior management, were among those who attended. They spoke collectively to media afterwards and issued a joint statement where they said they were “pledging to work together to ensure the end outcome is best for Northland as a whole – irrespective of each council's individual position”.

There was also a strong representation of Northland iwi and hapu and of others who had participated in the process, either through making alternative applications or meeting the Commission to share their views.

The Commission Chair Basil Morrison thanked all stakeholders for their co-operation, advice and guidance during the past few months, as the LGC has been narrowing its list of reasonably practicable options for local government in Northland.

The Commission has also slightly extended the original deadline for submissions following a joint request from Northland councils. Submissions are now due by 21 February 2014.

The draft proposal page on the LGC website will be updated shortly with the Officials’ Report on reasonably practicable options prepared for the Commissioners.

Hawke’s Bay

Around eighty local government stakeholders gathered in Napier on 26 November to hear the three commissioners announce the draft proposal for reorganisation in Hawke’s Bay.

The original applicant, A Better Hawke’s Bay Trust, was represented by its Chair, Rebecca Turner, and about a dozen members.

Four Hawke’s Bay Mayors - Peter Butler, Bill Dalton, Craig Little and Lawrence Yule, the Regional Council Chair Fenton Wilson and their respective management teams were in attendance. Staff from Waikato Regional Council made the trip to the Bay and iwi and hapu, alternative applicants and other interested parties also came to hear the details.

The Commissioners all took the opportunity to thank those attending for the advice and information they had shared with the LGC in the preceding months.

In addition to the four territorial authorities and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the draft proposal affects Taupo District and Rangitikei District. Their respective regional councils, Waikato and Manawatu-Wanganui, are also closely following the issue.

There was no joint response from Hawke’s Bay Councils as was the case in Northland, but this Dominion Post report summarised the respective positions.

A deadline of 7 March 2014 has been set for submissions.

Nau mai haere mai ki te whakarongo kōrero ki te whakaputa whakaaro!

Your interest in our proposals and your feedback are most welcome!

Wairarapa and Wellington

During October and November the Commissioners enlarged their studies of reasonably practicable options for local government in the Wellington Region by hosting a series of public meetings.

Fourteen meetings were scheduled across eight territorial authorities, with a combination of lunchtime and evening meetings to make it as convenient as possible for people to attend.

Nevertheless an evening meeting at the Cosmopolitan Club in Upper Hutt happened to coincide with the highly popular bingo night at the same venue and due to fire regulations a number of people were unable to gain access to the LGC meeting.

An additional meeting was scheduled at a larger venue to accommodate those who were turned away. For the record, the bingo night was more popular than the LGC meeting. Eyes down.

LEGISLATION

The Minister of Local Government Chris Tremain introduced the Local Government Amendment Bill (No. 3) on 4 November. The bill is of considerable interest to the Local Government Commission because of its proposed new provisions for local boards.

The Bill’s explanatory note states:

This Bill makes local boards available more widely, as an option that can be considered by the Local Government Commission during any reorganisations of local government. A reorganisation involving local boards can provide for effective democratic governance at a community level, while achieving the benefits associated with larger organisations.

The bill is explicitly referred to in the LGC’s draft proposals for Northland and Hawke’s Bay. They make provision only for community boards because of the 400,000 population threshold for local boards in current legislation. However the LGC has asked submitters to take account of the proposed bill and to provide comment on whether the draft proposal should be modified to provide for local boards in the place of community boards.

TRIENNIAL ELECTIONS 12 OCTOBER

This newsletter is the first opportunity since the triennial elections on 12 October to acknowledge and congratulate the new mayors and councillors throughout the country.

Commission Chair Basil Morrison took part in the forum for new mayors in Wellington in the week following the elections.

EUGENE BOWEN

The Local Government Commission has noted with sadness the recent passing of Eugene Bowen, former Chief Executive of Local Government New Zealand.

His service at Old St Paul’s in Wellington on 14 November was attended by the Commission Chair, Chief Executive and staff.