Amalgamation plan revealed

By Simon Hendery

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The chairman of the Local Government Commission, Basil Morrison.
The chairman of the Local Government Commission, Basil Morrison.

Hawke's Bay's five local body authorities will be amalgamated into one region-wide council under a draft proposal released by the Local Government Commission today.

The new "Hawke's Bay Council" would replace Wairoa District Council, Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Central Hawke's Bay District Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council. It would also include a small area of Rangitikei District.

Under the proposal, nine councillors would be elected from five wards across the region and a mayor would be elected at large by all Hawke's Bay voters.

The Council would have five community boards with 37 elected members. The wards and community boards would share the same boundaries. Their proposed names are Wairoa, Ngaruroro, Napier, Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay.

The council would "initially" be headquartered in Napier, with service centres in Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, Waipawa and Waipukurau, the commission said.

The controversial proposal to merge the existing councils to create a single unitary authority in the region will be open to submissions and is likely to be the subject of a referendum next year.

The LGA draft proposal follows a plan put forward by A Better Hawke's Bay, a lobby group that believes merging the region's local authorities will deliver more effective and efficient decision-making.

Amalgamation is strongly opposed by many, including lobby group Hawke's Bay Democratic Action Association which has vowed to rally its supporter base, who are mostly in Napier, to force a referendum on the issue.

The chair of the Local Government Commission, Basil Morrison, said Hawke's Bay local authorities face challenges and opportunities which are best addressed through reorganisation of council structures.

"A single council for Hawke's Bay gives the entire region the best option for dealing with future trends in population movement and economic development," Mr Morrison said.

The LGA will hold public meetings on its proposal and receive submissions on the proposal until March 7 next year.

If it then decides to continue with the plan, the commission will issue a final proposal in about the middle of next year, triggering the opportunity for opponents of its plan to force a referendum on the matter.

For the referendum to take place, 10 per cent of voters in at least one of the region's city of district council areas need to request it within two months of the final proposal being released.

Fifty per cent of those who vote in the referendum across the entire region would need to support the amalgamation option for the new system to be introduced.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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