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Northland Reorganisation

Overview:

In June 2015 the Commission announced it would not proceed with a proposal for a unitary council in the Northland region. It said it would return to the community and work with it to identify major challenges and the options for dealing with them.

The Commission has had a number of meetings with Northland Chief Executives, and with the Mayoral Forum. The Commission and the councils have drawn up a “Relationship Agreement’’ which is currently before the councils.

The Commission has agreed its work should fit into the councils’ existing strategic and shared services project.  Councils will remain sponsors of the work streams, with the Commission looking to add value where it can. In this vein, the councils have agreed to a four-waters (waste, storm, potable and flood management) study funded by the Commission, to arrive at a joint and agreed understanding of the state of the region’s, and each council’s, assets. 

In late 2012 the Far North District Council in association with a Far North District Local Government Working Group lodged a reorganisation application with the Local Government Commission. The application was for that council to become a unitary authority, a council with the powers of both a regional and district council.

The Commission decided that the applicant had supplied sufficient information for the application to be accepted and assessed. It also determined that the area, and its communities, affected by the application was the whole of the Northland Region.

The Commission then went through the subsequent process stages:

  • Publicly notifying the application and calling for alternative applications
  • Assessing all of the alternative responses, the original application, the status quo and an option developed by the Commission against criteria in the statute in the process of selecting four reasonably practicable options to further consider
  • Assessing these four options against other statutory criteria to identify a preferred option. This preferred option was a single unitary authority in the region and the abolition of the four existing councils
  • Releasing a draft proposal based on the preferred option
  • Consulting on the draft proposal, receiving submissions and carrying out hearings
  • Continuing to consult statutory parties, analysing feedback and investigating existing local government arrangements

The Commission has come to a decision on local government reorganisation in Northland and released that decision on 9 June 2015. It considers the matters affecting existing local government arrangements in Northland are still ‘live issues’ and potentially continue to prevent the delivery of ‘good local government’. Its decision is therefore, in consultation with the affected councils and other statutory parties, to reconsider other options for change before coming to a final decision.  

The reorganisation process begun in late 2012 by the application of the Far North District Council has proceeded through several stages to the Commission’s most recently released decision (9 June 2015). The decision is to abandon its proposal to create a single unitary authority in the region because of a clear lack of “demonstrable community support” and instead return to review other possible options. The Commission has listened to the Northland community and responded accordingly

The Commission’s main reason to not release a final proposal at this stage and also not abandon the process at this stage is that the Commission feels that the trends affecting local government in Northland may not be best managed by the current arrangements and the Commission would like to explore other options before making a final decision. The Commission has accepted that there is insufficient support for its draft proposal, but has no other preferred option in mind at this stage, wishing to consult with the affected councils and other statutory parties. 

Decisions:

Far North District Council January 2013

Far North District Council Application