Group in push for council mergers

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Pro-amalgamation lobby group A Better Hawke's Bay (ABHB) will be submitting a reorganisation proposal to the Local Government Commission later this year as it doubts the five Hawke's Bay councils will act with urgency on the matter.

Improving council performance was identified in the Prosperity Report released on Monday as an area of critical importance, the most significant of which was the ongoing capability and viability of the Central Hawke's Bay and Wairoa district councils.

While council reorganisation was not a "silver bullet" to fix the problems, three options would be further explored, including a full amalgamation.

The report estimated - depending on the type of reorganisation undertaken - it could save $3 million to $25 million per annum.

ABHB said the report showed "compelling evidence" that the region would be held back unless there was a reorganisation of the councils.

"We look forward to the next stage of the study and commend our councils for commissioning further development of a region-wide amalgamation option," it said.

"At the same time, history indicates it is unlikely the region's five councils will act with urgency, so ABHB will put forward its own reorganisation proposal to the Local Government Commission later this year.

"The areas highlighted as critical in the report - such as lack of regional vision, lack of leadership, and opportunities for very substantial ratepayer savings - reflect what ABHB supporters have been saying all along."

The group also lauded the report's findings regarding the importance of leadership and the region's relationship with central government.

The report stated that leadership within Hawke's Bay was "currently fragmented, and debate over amalgamation seems to have got in the way of effective collaboration".

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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