Super City Plans for Northland and Wellington Will Not Proceed – Hawkes Bay May Amalgamate

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MIL OSI – Super City Plans for Northland and Wellington Will Not Proceed – Hawkes Bay May Amalgamate

Local Government Commission: Engaging with communities

The Local Government Commission has made decisions on the next steps for three local government reorganisation proposals.

The Commission has decided not to proceed with its draft proposals for single councils in Northland and Wellington. Instead the Commission will return to those communities to work with them and seek to develop other options to address the challenges those regions face. The Commission has issued a final proposal for reorganising Hawke’s Bay’s local government.

“Different regions have different challenges and may require different responses to those challenges,’’ said Commission Chair Basil Morrison. “All three communities have indicated some change in local government is needed to ensure regions can be more effective and efficient and make decisions about what will be needed in future.

“We believe in Hawke’s Bay there is community support for reorganising local government, that the final proposal will promote good local government, and is in the region’s best interests.’’

Local Government Commission chief executive Sandra Preston said there was little support for the major structural option proposed for Wellington but there was a widespread mood for some form of change. In Northland the councils had also made progress in identifying alternative ways to provide good local government since the draft proposal was released and the Commission hopes to work with the community in building on that momentum.

The Commission looks forward to collaborating and engaging with councils and communities in Northland and Wellington.

“There needs to be more emphasis on the role of communities identifying the challenges they face, the options that can address those challenges, and the development of more consensus on their preferred approach to change,’’ said Ms Preston. “Our goal will be to assist both communities to reach sufficient consensus on the changes required and the best form of local government.’’

As required under the Local Government Act, if this process results in new options for reform with community support the Commission would then prepare new draft proposals for wider consultation in Wellington and Northland.

Ms Preston will be meeting shortly with key local government stakeholders in these regions.

Background

In summary, 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 whether there is evidence of community support for local government 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 consultation including 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 is held

  • 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.

Further information:

  • Questions and answers on Wellington and Northland can be found here: www.lgc.govt.nz

  • A summary of submissions on the Draft Proposal for Reorganisation of Local Government in Wellington can be found here: www.lgc.govt.nz

  • A summary of submissions on the Draft Proposal for Reorganisation of Local Government in Northland can be found here: www.lgc.govt.nz

  • A media release, “Hawke’s Bay amalgamation proposal to proceed’’, can be found here: www.lgc.govt.nz

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

Questions and Answers

9 June 2015

Background information

Wellington and Northland Local Government Reorganisation

How did this process start in Wellington?

In the Wellington region, the Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa District Councils applied in May 2013 for a local government reorganisation that would create a stand-alone unitary authority incorporating – in the Wairarapa – the roles of all three district Councils and the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

In June that year, the Greater Wellington Regional Council also applied for a local government reorganisation. The proposal was to establish a single council that would combine the roles of all of the district councils in the region and those of the regional council. This Council would be complemented by a number of local boards with responsibility for managing defined local issues.

How did this process start for Northland?

In Northland, the Far North District Council applied for a local government reorganisation in December 2012 proposing a single unitary authority for the Far North District, with arrangements for the remainder of the region unspecified.

Can the Commission initiate a reorganisation process?

No. Councils, the Minister for Local Government, or any other individual or organisation have the right to apply to the Commission to alter the constitution, structure or boundaries of a local authority under the reorganisation provisions in the Local Government Act 2002. The Commission cannot apply to itself.

What is the decision today?

The Local Government Act enables the Commission to explore options for change with the affected local authorities and others in both regions, including whether other draft proposals can be developed. The option of a single council for either Wellington or Northland region is off the table.

Why was this decision made?

Consultation on the two draft proposals showed there was a lack of community support for single councils across these regions.

Why did the Commission not stop the process?

Consultation on the two draft proposals showed there is support from councils and the community to improve local government. It was clear the community wanted change but less clear as to what option would be supported by most.

The Commission is also of the view that there are opportunities to improve the performance of both Northland and Wellington regions through changes to the way local government is organised. These need to be further explored with the communities.

What will be the benefits of the new, more collaborative approach?

The new approach will enable the development of options that reflect community feedback. The Commission is looking to develop sufficient consensus on the opportunities and challenges in the regions and how good local government can help to manage them.

What will the next options look like?

It is too early to tell, but the views of the Northland and Wellington communities will be important in determining what the options for their region look like. The Commission has a role in facilitating this and responsibility under legislation for producing potential new proposals.

How and when will individuals get a chance to have their say? 

The process has not been designed yet, but for the initial phase of identifying challenges and possible options to address these, the Commission will seek to work with councils to put together a process that will engage communities. If either Wellington or Northland proceeds to a new draft proposal, there will be a public consultation process including written submissions and hearings.

What were the main themes from the Wellington consultation?

  • 89% of submitters did not support the draft proposal, with opposition strongest in the Hutt Valley;
  • Most opposed the proposal because of a preference for the status quo, more localised democracy, and concerns about the risks of large scale change;
  • A minority supported the proposal because it would streamline and improve decision-making and set a foundation for future prosperity;
  • There was a mood for change to improve local government services in the region; many submissions favoured either smaller-scale mergers or increased use of shared services; and
  • Most affected Councils recognised the need for change and submitted options for improvements to the current system.

What were the themes of the Northland process?

  • 90% of submitters did not support the draft proposal, with strong opposition in the Whangarei District;
  • Most opposed the proposal because of a preference for the status quo or an enhanced version of it. There was concern that a single unitary authority would not provide for local decision-making, be harder to administer, and potentially trigger an increased rates burden;
  • Some concern was also expressed about the loss of environmental regulatory checks and balances if regional functions were placed in the same organisation that delivered services;
  • A minority supported the proposal because it would streamline decision-making and provide a more effective basis for economic development in the region;
  • Some submitters did indicate support for smaller scale mergers, transferring functions or developing a shared service arrangement between the existing councils;
  • All existing councils in the region recognised the need for improvements in both strategic decision-making and the delivery of services.

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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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