Support for one council to rule Bay

By Natalie Dixon

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The entire Western Bay could be governed by one council as early as 2016 - if a high-powered bid for amalgamation is successful.

A group of residents, including leading Western Bay businessmen and women, have revealed they plan to make an application to the Local Government Commission to amalgamate the Tauranga City Council and the Western Bay of Plenty District Council (WBOPDC) within two months.

A spokesman for the group, Carrus Corporation executive chairman Paul Adams, said if there was sufficient community support and an amalgamation proposal was put before the commission in time, one mayor and one council could be elected to represent the Western Bay in 2016.

"If time was against us, then after the 2016 election, the full amalgamation of electoral representation could be debated with a view to implementation at the 2019 elections," Mr Adams said.

Having two sets of council costs and rules that were "not always in sync" was holding back the Western Bay region's prosperity and future, he said.

"Tauranga City and WBOPDC are a natural fit, the representation and allocation of funding between urban and rural can be worked out, the rationalisation of council staff numbers will create efficiency gains, and the unified Western Bay region can become a stronger force on the national landscape - economically, socially and culturally."

Mr Adams said the group had called on the Western Bay mayor Ross Paterson to scrap the appointment of a replacement for outgoing chief executive Glenn Snelgrove in anticipation of an amalgamation.

He said Tauranga City Council chief executive Garry Poole should manage both councils.

However, Mr Paterson said the Western Bay council was "about 10 days away" from announcing the new chief executive and would not be shelving the position.

Mr Adams said Mr Snelgrove's retirement this year provided a golden opportunity to move toward one unitary authority for the whole Western Bay.

"This is a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership in the reorganisation of Tauranga/Western Bay before WBOPDC gets locked into an expensive employment contract with a new chief executive.

"Garry Poole has vast experience in managing a far bigger council in Wellington and we are fortunate to have his skills and services in our region, " Mr Adams said.

Mr Paterson said his council had gone through the proper process and would be announcing its new chief executive shortly.

"It makes economic sense to adjust to a new model that will ultimately help control costs, enable faster, more co-ordinated strategic decisions and ensure local government leaders can be heard on the national stage. However, I do not think it is wise to frame up a debate for change based on the inner-workings of a bureaucracy," he said.

Mr Adams said joining the two councils would ensure ratepayer dollars were spent efficiently and sensibly across the rural and urban areas of the combined district.

"Having one unified council will definitely lead to cost savings and alignment of services, rules and regulations, and operational management."

Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby said Bay of Plenty councils had already started a "low-key research document" looking at the "form and function" of local government in the region including staffing levels and rating base.

Mr Crosby said he had not seen the group's proposal and could not comment on it.

"My personal view is that this discussion needs to be front and centre but we must be cautious," he said.

A new Hawke's Bay Council is set to replace the Napier City, Wairoa, Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay District Councils, along with the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, after a lobby group put forward a proposal to the Local Government Commission in 2013.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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