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Council concerned by local government reorganisation proposal

 
Whangarei District Council is reviewing the Local Government Commission's draft proposal for the reorganisation of local government in Northland from a Whangarei perspective.
Updated: 13/02/2014 4:12 p.m.

​In December 2012 the Far North District Council made a submission to the Local Government Commission (LGC) calling for reorganisation of local government in Northland.

In November last year (2013) the Local Government Commission produced a Draft Proposal for the creation in late 2015 of a single unitary body, dubbed the Northland Council, based in Whangarei and supported by seven community boards.

In December 2013 Whangarei District Council rejected a range of factors and conclusions in the proposal.

It protested about the timing of the release of the proposal and the short amount of time given for consultation. It also said information supporting the proposal had been slow to arrive and was based on information that was dated.

Council feels strongly that the public submission period is too short to get a good perspective on public feeling, the information that has been provided is inadequate, and that good practice for consultation has not been followed.

The Councillors looked at the Draft Proposal from a Whangarei perspective, because they were elected to represent the interests of Whangarei District residents.

Councillors asked staff to prepare a programme of publicity and meetings to inform and gain feedback from the public in late January and early February 2014.

Council resolved that a sample of residents would be independently surveyed for their views and the survey results would be forwarded to the Local Government Commission along with a submission that will be considered by Council on 19 February.

Whangarei residents may lose while others gain

Council is concerned Whangarei residents could be disadvantaged under a single Unitary Authority compared to residents of other Districts for the following reasons:

Cross subsidisation/assets

Whangarei's current debt has been elevated in the short term to enable investment in major wastewater and roading projects, bringing these assets up to a higher standard in Whangarei than in most of the rest of the Region.

Debt is projected to drop under Council's current plans. Council is concerned that under amalgamation, areas of Northland that have smaller rating bases and fewer and poorer quality assets,  would benefit from Whangarei's rates, while Whangarei may get lower levels of service and less resourcing than at present.

Strength of representation to Central Government

Councillors were concerned about condensing the current four 'voices' of the Northland people (Whangarei, Kaipara, Far North District and Northand Regional Councils) into one 'voice' (Northland Council). Would one large council speak louder than four councils in unison when lobbying central government for projects benefits and resources for different parts of Northland? The LGC suggests that would be the case, but our Councillors debate that.

Lack of representation at home

Under the Northland Unitary Authority, Northland would be divided into seven wards.  There would be nine Councillors in total. The residents of the major urban part of our District (the Whangarei Ward) would be represented by only two Councillors. Residents in the rural areas of the District would be represented by Councillors in the expanded Kaipara Ward, the Coastal South Ward (which includes Mangawhai), Coastal Central Ward and Coastal North Ward (that extends to Cable Bay).

Councillors felt this would be an inadequate representation of the biggest urban population in Northland and the District which has the largest and fastest growing satellite communities in the region.  They felt that it did not reflect that the District currently holds, and is responsible for, the largest share of Northland's assets, infrastructure and services, and has the largest gross domestic product in the North on a per capita basis.

Maori representation

Maori represent a significant proportion of the population within the proposed unitary authority and are already significant asset owners in the Region. Council has clearly established its intent to strengthen Maori representation by establishing the Te Karearea Strategic Partnership Forum and by agreeing to Terms of Reference that focus on developing a robust partnership over time.  The proposal does not appear to allow for genuine partnership and Council is concerned about this. 

We are not Auckland

Council felt that the Local Government Commission was attempting to 'Aucklandise' Northland without realising that the two areas cannot be compared.  A person can drive for 50km along a motorway in Auckland and still be within an urbanised area, most people in the Auckland area consider themselves city folk.  People in Whangarei do not think as themselves as city people, and the vast majority of land in our District is rural.

What is Council doing?

Looking through the lens of the Whangarei resident, Council will be writing a submission to the Local Government Commission  (LGC), but wants to make sure it reflects the community's views.

To that end Council will be carrying out a phone survey and holding public meetings as follows:

Phone survey

A phone survey of a cross section of residents will be completed in early February in which we'll ask simple questions about your views on Local Government reorganisation.

Public Meetings

To inform people about the issues Council will be holding public meetings at the end of January at which we will provide information and get your views. The public meetings will be held as drop-in sessions from 2pm - 8pm. Members of the public can call in and talk to Councillors and staff at a time to suit. Formal presentations will be made at 2pm and 6pm.

Tuesday 28 January – Kamo Club

Wednesday 29 January – Ruakaka Recreation Centre

Thursday 30 January – Cafler Suite, Forum North

Hui

Monday 3 February – Otangarei Marae, 5pm

Making your own submission to the Local Government Commission

The current process is being run by the Local Government Commission not Council, and anyone wanting to put in a submission should do so by sending it directly to the Local Government Commission.

The closing date for submissions is Friday 21 February 2014.

You can email your submission to: info@lgc.govt.nz

or post it to:
Northland Reorganisation Proposal
Local Government Commission
PO Box 5362
Wellington 6145
New Zealand

For more information – including the draft proposal and the commission's guide to making a submission – visit the Commission's website, scroll down to 'Features' , and click through to the draft proposal for Northland.

Link to the Local Government Commission's website

For further information, view the Local Government Reform page on this website.

Resources

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