Duo get behind single-council push

By John Cousins

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The creation of a single council covering the Western Bay is being pursued by Graeme Horsley (left) and John Gordon.Photo/John Borren
The creation of a single council covering the Western Bay is being pursued by Graeme Horsley (left) and John Gordon.Photo/John Borren

The rest of the firepower behind the group pushing for a single council for the Western Bay of Plenty has been revealed, with Graeme Horsley and John Gordon insisting that amalgamation made compelling strategic and economic sense.

Mr Horsley, a professional director, and Mr Gordon, a prominent city lawyer, said it was time they "put their heads above the parapet".

They are working with Tauranga property developer Paul Adams to spearhead an application to the Local Government Commission to amalgamate the Tauranga City Council and Western Bay District Council.

"Sure, there will be efficiencies and cost savings, but the real benefit will be better and quicker strategic decisions," Mr Gordon said.

The two men said they had no business links with Mr Adams and were motivated because it was the right thing for the Western Bay. "We have the oomph to get it rolling."

When it was put to them that amalgamation was motivated by the advantage it could bring to property developers getting rid of the boundary around Tauranga, Mr Gordon said this was not correct.

"We are doing this because it is the right thing for the region. To me it is a logical thing," Mr Gordon said.

The group was building support from a range of people and organisations and wanted to lodge the application with the Local Government Commission within three months, or by the end of the year at the latest.

Mr Gordon said they were trying to fix a mistake of the past when the opportunity for amalgamation failed to happen in 1989. "For all practical purposes it is one region but for governance it is two, and that makes no sense."

Their research so far supports the views set out by commission chairman Sir Brian Elwood in 1989 when the single council option was lost.

Mr Elwood wrote then that there was a commonality of identity and purpose in what happened in the Western Bay of Plenty. "There is so much that unites and so little that divides. The single council for the Western Bay would recognise the reality of the common community of interest. It would create a very strong council able to address some of the infrastructure problems confronting the area."

The group proposed a "simple" amalgamation that did not involve rolling in the functions of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council which was a majority shareholder in the Port of Tauranga.

"There is a benefit in having one strong shareholder in the port. That is one reason why we did not go for a unitary council," Mr Gordon said.

He said that having two separate District Plans for the Western Bay created an unnecessary gravy train for lawyers and consultants. "In addition to being very expensive, it slowed things down."

He viewed the amalgamation as bolting one council on to the other, rather than their group of volunteers trying to tackle something that was too hard. The two other communities of interest in the Bay were the Eastern Bay of Plenty and Rotorua.

Mr Horsley said the people who criticised amalgamations often focussed on the first year, when there were costs such as redundancies. They did not look at the ongoing savings and efficiencies that came later on.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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