Lobby group submits merger proposal

By Doug Laing

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Local body merger campaigner A Better Hawke's Bay will lodge its proposal for reshaping local government in Hawke's Bay with the Local Government Commission today, hoping a public vote decides the issue within 12 months.

The proposal comes in the form of an application for reorganisation to create a "unitary authority" for the region, A Better HB confirming it wants a Hawke's Bay Council to replace the current Hawke's Bay Regional Council, the Napier City Council, and the Hastings, Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay district councils.

The proposal, by A Better Hawke's Bay Trust, is for the region to be governed by a mayor and 16 councillors, with six from Napier, six from the Hastings district, and two each for Wairoa and CHB, plus five community boards of five members each.

Under the proposal, they'd all be elected representatives, replacing the current combined representation of four mayors and 49 councillors.

A Better HB says a referendum will take place if at least 10 per cent of electors in any one of the districts call for such a vote. It was reported last month that at the end of December there were 110,002 people on the rolls, ranging from 5241 in Wairoa to 52,366 in the Hastings district.

The organisation says it is "likely" such a petition will be initiated within one "jurisdiction" this year, although it has said it won't be initiating a petition.

Representatives have also previously said there is the capability to defer the scheduled October 12 triennial elections in the area for up to a year pending the outcome of a vote.

Chairwoman Rebecca Turner says the lodging of the proposal puts reorganisation "now in the formal LGC process".

On accepting the proposal, the LGC consults with the public and formulates a final plan, which will be implemented if there is no petition or if it is supported in a referendum.

Mrs Turner says the Bay "lags behind in key social and economic indicators and requires a fresh infusion of energy, imagination and leadership".

"We need a regional vision and plan that is future focused, inclusive and offers people a first-class quality of life supported by a sound and sustainable economic base," she says.

"And we need to adopt a government structure that better supports our people, businesses and communities to achieve those goals."

It is proposed the single council will consolidate all functions and responsibilities held by the current authorities, and the community boards will focus on localised issues, and negotiate community plans and budgets with the Council - "following the Auckland model" - and make decisions on local priorities and initiatives.

"We believe this scheme would equip Hawke's Bay to govern itself effectively, achieving cost-savings and efficiencies, productivity improvements for councils and citizens, businesses alike, and simplified planning processes."

The proposal of more than 30 pages is being accompanied by reports A Better HB says support the proposal, and a copy of its brochure, which it says has been distributed to every household in the region.

It includes comments of support for amalgamations, including that of Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa iwi leader, Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, quoted as calling two district authorities in the "rohe" - one from Wairoa to CHB, and the other from Dannevirke to Featherston.

Former Napier deputy mayor Ian Dick, chairman of the Hawke's Bay Democratic Action Association, which was launched a fortnight ago to ensure the public do have a say, had not seen the submissions when contacted yesterday by Hawke's Bay Today.

But he said the organisation, known simply as DAD HB, would await the release of a plan by the Local Government Commission before making any response to the proposal.

Leading DAD HB member and Napier councillor Bill Dalton believes change and more efficiency is needed, but wrote recently: "Full amalgamation is not the appropriate way forward at this time."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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