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Northland Reorganisation

Overview:

Formal closure of the Northland reorganisation application

Having worked and liaised with Northland councils on shared services projects over the previous two years, the Local Government Commission decided in October 2017 not to issue a new draft reorganisation proposal for the region.  While the Commission will continue to support councils’ efforts to develop such shared arrangements, this decision formally closes off the reorganisation process which started with the lodging of an application by the Far North District Council in December 2012. 

The Commission had previously issued a draft proposal for the establishment of a single unitary council for the whole Northland region in November 2013.  After considering submissions made in response to this the Commission decided in May 2015 that it would not proceed with that proposal, but would engage further with the Northland local authorities with a view to identifying another reorganisation proposal. (See Prior history below).  The decision not to issue a further reorganisation proposal reflects the results of the earlier submissions process and the Commission’s further engagement with the councils since that time.

The Commission will, however, continue to work with the Northland councils to support their efforts to improve local governance and service delivery in the region and may in future issue further recommendations to councils on how they might improve outcomes for their communities through better collaboration. The Commission would do so under its general powers to consider and report on issues affecting local authorities and to promote good practice in local government.

Milestones 2016-2017

April 2016: A Memorandum of Understanding between the Commission and councils was agreed around how the parties would work together across the shared services area and the Commission’s reorganisation process.

September 2016: Reports from consultants on the current state of water assets, covering drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and flood protection, and on the councils’ ICT architecture were presented to the Northland Chief Executive’s Forum. 

October 2017: Local Government Commission decides to not issue a new draft reorganisation proposal bringing the formal reorganisation process to an end.

Prior history of the application

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