Super regional plan to be unveiled

By Lawrence Gullery

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A super East Coast regional council will have 11 members representing seven wards stretching over 500km from the Wharerata ranges, near Gisborne, to Cape Palliser, Wellington region.

The plan, to be presented in public for the first time this morning, will show a new regional council which will serve a population of about 210,000 with 10 city or district councils continuing to operate within its boundaries. It would be New Zealand's fifth-largest regional council behind Canterbury, Southland, Otago and Waikato.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council is proposing the super regional plan and will meet today to finalise the details before handing it into the Local Government Authority on Friday.

Hawke's Bay will contribute eight people to the 11-member super council, with representations from Wairoa (one), Napier (three), Hastings (three), Central Hawke's Bay (one) and Wairoa listed as a "special" community of interest requiring one representative for 8700 people.

The same special treatment is not applied to Hawke's Bay's southern neighbours. Tararua will have only one representative for 18,100 people, Masterton will have one for 23,200 people and South Wairarapa one for 9100 people.

The East Coast super council is an alternative proposal to one submitted by A Better Hawke's Bay to merge Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, CHB and Hawke's Bay regional councils. Other alternative proposals are likely to be handed into the commission on Friday, and it will have the final say on a new Hawke's Bay council.

The regional council's chairman, Fenton Wilson, released the proposal a week ago and he outlined the plan again to the council's Maori Committee yesterday.

"There have been some big points made against this, including that there is no community of interest, that the community of Wairarapa does not travel up to Napier to go to work. That is bloody ridiculous because this is about regional function.

"The East Coast of the North Island shares a whole lot of issues, environmental, severe summer drying. There are opportunities for a larger regional council to look at the share issues of water storage, irrigation, the issues of the aquifer."

Maori committee member Shaun Hauraki, Wairoa, said he understood the focus was on ensuring the regional council's function as an environmental custodian but equally important was Maori representation "around the table".

"I feel an opportunity for the Maori community to have input into this structure is slipping away. Council has not contacted this committee to see what Maori ambitions are around it, that is my concern."

Mr Hauraki said the Wairoa District Council Maori Standing Committee met the Wairoa Taiwhenua to review A Better Hawke's Bay's proposal.

The Wairoa Maori committee had "conditional support" from the taiwhenua for an alternative plan being proposed by the Wairoa District Council.

"There were three main points. We wanted Maori seats on the Wairoa District Council, the three-year (council) term to be extended to five years and that the mayor resides in Wairoa district.

"It felt comforting to be part of a movement like that but here, this morning, I don't feel the community is part of this movement at this stage."

Cr Wilson responded and said there was a short time, four weeks, to put the proposal for an East Coast regional council together.

"We were constrained by meeting dates. We haven't had time to consult with the community and elected representatives have had to make a call."

Cr Wilson was earlier in the meeting critical of media coverage on his super council plan.

"Just so we are clear this is not about saving the structure of regional council. All we seem to talk about is what the structure of the (East Coast) council might look like.

"This is not about a Hawke's Bay take-over and I have been amused with some of the headlines coming out.

"People need to get over themselves and let the commission get into the first round of consideration on what a proposal like this could achieve," he said.

Regional councillor Alan Dick said he would vote to support the proposal at today's meeting.

He said there was some initial confusion when the plan for a super East Coast regional council was released last week.

"Some people mistook it to be an expanded unitary (city and district) council, which it is not. It is simply a regional council with expanded boundaries."

Regional councillor Neil Kirton would vote against the proposal today, which he said had made Hawke's Bay "the laughing stock" among Government and council politicians.

Cr Kirton's comments, Talking Point, page 11.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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