Bridges backs council amalgamation proposals

By Rebecca Savory

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Tauranga MP Simon Bridges
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has spoken out in support of a possible amalgamation of the Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

Mr Bridges revealed his stance after saying he had planned not to get involved in council matters at the annual Tauranga Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Trinity Wharf yesterday.

"I would vote for amalgamation for both efficiency and effectiveness ... You get one single vision," he said.

Fellow guest speakers Mayor Stuart Crosby and Tauranga developer Paul Adams also discussed possible amalgamation but had different views on the best way forward.

Mr Adams is leading a group of business people who recently announced they intended to apply to the Local Government Commission to amalgamate the councils.

He said they intended to lodge their reorganisation proposal with the commission before the general election in September.

They were gathering all the information they needed to put forward in the case, drawing on the skills of lawyers, accountants and people with an understanding of local government.

The regional council responded on Thursday by deciding to take the initiative and start work immediately on preparing a report on local government reorganisation options for the Bay.

Mr Adams discussed issues and opportunities in the city, addressing merging of the councils, housing, planning and infrastructure and business growth.

The sooner the amalgamation took place, the better, was how Mr Adams saw it.

"The sooner we have one system, one set of rules and some wider strategic thinking for the combined Tauranga and Western Bay region, the sooner the efficiencies, increased purchasing power and influence of our region, will flow through."

Mr Crosby spoke positively about possible amalgamation but was concerned about negative consequences if the process was not managed properly.

"When considering local government reform we also need to remember that in the end local government is about people.

"If, through reform, we create large, faceless entities that the community feels are unreachable then we risk undermining our social capital," he said.

Continued collaboration was going to be vital and the Bay did this better than anywhere else in the country, Mr Crosby said.

"It is time to have a serious look at the issues and opportunities we have as a city and as a region and then to work together to establish the very best structure to enable us to make the most of those opportunities while still solving some of the issues."

Once an application was lodged, the regional council has said it would have only 20 working days to respond to the commission.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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