Hawke’s Bay amalgamation proposal to proceed

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MIL OSI – Hawke’s Bay amalgamation proposal to proceed

The Local Government Commission has issued a final proposal for reorganising Hawke’s Bay local government.

That proposal is to establish a single new council for Hawke’s Bay, called Hawke’s Bay Council, with five local boards sharing decision making and representing the interests of the region’s varied communities. If implemented, it will replace the Napier City, Wairoa District, Hastings District and Central Hawke’s Bay District, and Hawke’s Bay Regional Councils. This final proposal has been issued following an extensive process.

“In Hawke’s Bay there is community support for reorganising Hawke’s Bay local government. That is one of the main reasons our decision on this application is different to those we have made in Wellington and Northland,’’ says Commission Chair Basil Morrison.

“Different regions have different local government requirements. We believe the final proposal will promote good local government and is in the best interests of Hawke’s Bay.

“In the Commission’s view, a single Hawke’s Bay Council will enable local government to be delivered in a more effective and efficient manner to address the issues and opportunities the region faces,’’ Mr Morrison said.

“We encourage people in Hawke’s Bay to read the final proposal which sets out the reasons for our decision in detail.’’

The Commission has worked hard and listened carefully before issuing its final proposal, says Commission chief executive Sandra Preston.

“It is now up to the people of Hawke’s Bay to have further input into whether or not this final proposal goes ahead. They can ask for a poll to vote on it if they wish.’’

A poll can be requested if 10% of electors in any affected area, such as Napier City or Wairoa District, sign a petition seeking one.

“Results of a poll are binding and require a simple majority for or against the final proposal to determine the outcome,’’ said Ms Preston.

Background

The process for local government reorganisations under the Local Government Act 2002 is:

  • Individuals, organisations or the Minister of Local Government can apply to the Commission for reorganisation of local government

  • The Commission assesses if there is evidence of community support for reorganisation

  • If accepted, there is public notification of the application, including a call for alternative applications

  • The Commission identifies options for change, chooses a preferred option and develops a draft proposal

  • The draft proposal is subject to submissions and a series of hearings

  • If the Commission decides to proceed, it issues a final proposal. Otherwise it can choose to end the process, or identify a new draft proposal for consultation

  • If requested by the community, a poll on the final proposal can be held

  • Electors have 60 working days to sign a petition seeking a poll

  • The number of signatures required to trigger a poll is 10 per cent of registered electors in any affected area – for example, within any of the existing council boundaries

  • A poll would take place around three months after the Commission verifies the petition

  • If no poll is requested or the poll shows support for the proposal, the reorganisation scheme is implemented

The Local Government Commission has been considering three local government applications under the Local Government Act 2002.

In Hawke’s Bay the application was from a local stakeholder group, A Better Hawkes Bay.

In Northland, the application was from the Far North District Council and in Wellington the Commission was asked to consider two applications: the first from the three Wairarapa Councils seeking to amalgamate and establish a unitary authority, and the second, wider, application from the Wellington Regional Council seeking a Single Unitary Authority for the whole region.

The Commission prepared draft proposals for reorganisation in each region, received submissions on the proposals and held hearings in each region.

A Final Proposal has now been issued in Hawke’s Bay.

The Commission’s ability to return to communities after submissions and hearings and seek other options for change is provided for in clause 21 in schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002.

  • Questions and Answers on the Hawke’s Bay reorganisation final proposal can be found here: www.lgc.govt.nz

  • The Hawke’s Bay reorganisation final proposal can be found here: www.lgc.govt.nz

  • A one-page summary of the poll and advertising guidelines can be found here: www.lgc.govt.nz

  • Guidelines on petitioning for a poll on a final proposal can be found here: www.lgc.govt.nz

  • Advertising guidelines relating to a poll can be found here: www.lgc.govt.nz

  • A media release, “Engaging with communities’’, on the Northland and Wellington applications can be found here: www.lgc.govt.nz

Questions and Answers

9 June 2015

Background information

Hawke’s Bay Local Government Reorganisation

How did this process start?

  • The process started when Hawke’s Bay people formed a group called A Better Hawke’s Bay and applied to the Local Government Commission in 2013 for a local government reorganization under the Local Government Act 2002.
  • Its application called for the disestablishment of all five current Hawke’s Bay councils, and the establishment of a single Hawke’s Bay Council. The application proposed that the new Hawke’s Bay Council would be a unitary authority, which combines the functions of a regional council with those of a territorial authority (district and city councils).

What were the stages in the process?

  • Feb 2013: A Better Hawke’s Bay makes an application to the Local Government Commission for a single unitary authority (one council). The Commission accepts the application and calls for alternatives.
  • May 2013: Commission receives 19 responses, from which six were identified as alternative proposals, and of these three were subsequently identified as “reasonably practicable options” (along with the status quo).
  • Feb-Oct 2013: Commission meets a wide range of interest groups, subject matter experts and members of the public in the region.
  • Nov 2013: Commission releases a draft proposal in favour of a single council for the region with community boards.
  • Nov 2013-June 2014: Public feedback on draft proposal through submissions and public hearings. More than 700 submissions received.
  • Nov 2014: Commission releases position paper with revisions following consultation and law changes allowing for local boards (rather than community boards).
  • Mar 2015: Commission releases its proposal to ring-fence debt and assets of existing councils for 5 years to 2021; and conducts survey of 2000 Hawke’s Bay residents on their views.
  • June 2015: Commission releases its final decision.

What happens now?

  • Either residents (affected electors) request a poll or the proposal goes ahead.
  • At least 10% of the registered electors of any “affected area’’ in the region must sign a petition for a poll to proceed.
  • A poll needs to be requested within 60 working days of the Commission giving notice of its final proposal. The poll itself will be held between September and December 2015, depending on when a valid petition is received.

  • If 50% or more vote against the proposal, the process ceases and the status quo prevails.

  • If more than 50% of electors support the proposal, or there is no poll, the proposal proceeds and the new council is elected in October 2016.

  • A Transition Board will be appointed by the Commission to work through detailed arrangements for the new council. It will have 11 members – two elected representatives from each of the current councils, and an independent Chair. The transition board will also appoint an interim Chief Executive for the new Council.

What is an “affected area’’?

  • An area impacted by the proposed changes. In this case: Wairoa District, Central Hawkes Bay District, Napier City, Hastings District and affected electors in the small sections of the Rangitikei and Taupo Districts.

Why are sections of the Rangitikei and Taupo Districts considered “affected areas’’?

  • Because small areas of these two districts are included under the current Hawke’s Bay Regional Council jurisdiction. The final proposal is for a unitary authority with one coherent boundary, which excludes these areas. Under the proposal they will move to the Manawatu-Wanganui and Bay of Plenty Regions respectively.

What are the rules and requirements for a poll petition?

  • The requirements for a petition are available at www.lgc.govt
  • People who are 18 or over, resident in the region and and registered on the electoral roll, or registered non-resident ratepayers, are eligible to vote.
  • Because petitions have to be checked by the electoral officer for the district, people signing the petition must give their full name and residential address.

Can people advertise their support or opposition to the final proposal? 

  • Yes. The only requirement is that the person(s) initiating the advertisement have to put their name and address on the advertisement.
  • The only restriction on advertising is on local authorities, which cannot spend money or use their resources on advertising that opposes or promotes the final proposal. They can produce fair and balanced reference material on the proposal.

Why was a survey conducted in March 2015, and what were the results?

  • The Commission decided to conduct a survey on community views following the release of its November 2014 position paper, which outlined a revised reorganisation proposal involving more councillors, and local boards rather than community boards.
  • The survey also aimed to get a wider representation of community views than had been gained through the submissions and hearings on the draft proposal.
  • The telephone survey, conducted by Colmar Brunton, was of 2000 residents across the Hawke’s Bay, with a region-wide margin of error of +/- 2.2%. In order to be representative, it included 400 residents in Wairoa, 601 in Hastings, 600 in Napier and 400 in Central Hawke’s Bay. Face-to-face surveys were also conducted with 18 and 10 residents respectively in the areas of Taupo and Rangitikei Districts currently in Hawke’s Bay Region.
  • The Commission will release the results of the survey when the process reaches a conclusion and there is no chance of the results impacting on the community’s decision on the final proposal.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues.
Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia’s FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand’s The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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