Cost collaboration on merger meeting

By Simon Hendery

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Napier Mayor Bill Dalton
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton

Hawke's Bay's five councils will share the cost of running a workshop on amalgamation issues to be held in Napier next week.

Invitations to the workshop, to be led by an Auckland-based consultant specialising in council amalgamation issues, have been sent to councillors from all the region's local authorities.

The five-hour workshop, to be held on Wednesday, is expected to cost about $7000 with Napier City, Hasting District and Hawke's Bay Regional councils each agreeing to pay 30 per cent of the bill. The smaller Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay district councils will split the remaining 10 per cent of the cost between them.

In November, the Local Government Commission released a draft proposal recommending the merger of the region's councils into a single unitary authority. Submissions on the proposal close on March 7.

The region's council's have a checkered history when it comes to co-operating and cost-sharing on matters related to amalgamation. They agreed on the terms of reference of a 2012 "prosperity study" by consultant Peter Winder but last year Napier City Council commissioned its own report by academic Brian Dollery.

The council's chief executive, Wayne Jack, discussed the commissioning of the Dollery report with the chief executives on the regional council and Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay district councils but did not discuss it with the Hastings District Council.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule is a strong supporter of amalgamation while the mayors of Napier, Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay are strongly opposed to the idea.

Despite the differing views, Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said yesterday all councils wanted the same result for the region and the workshop was aimed at achieving that goal.

"What we all want is a stronger and more prosperous Hawke's Bay. Sure, there are different ideas about how we should go about doing that.

"We take the view that the better informed the councillors are, the better decisions they will make and the better position they'll be in to lead the people forward. So the whole idea of this [workshop] is simply to get better information in front of all the councillors," Mr Dalton said.

"We're bringing in experienced people who have been involved in putting amalgamations together and who have also been involved in areas where there have been de-amalgamations.

"These people are absolutely experts in local governance change."

The workshop will be led by Bruce Nicholson, a director of transtasman consultancy Morrison Low.

Mr Nicholson has 25 years of experience in local government and was seconded to the Auckland Transition Agency, which was responsible for managing the transition and set-up of the Auckland super city council.

Mr Yule said yesterday he would attend the workshop. He said Morrison Low was highly regarded in Australia and New Zealand and the company had been considered in 2012, when the Hawke's Bay councils were deciding who to commission to produce the prosperity report.

Mr Dalton said while next week's workshop was not open to the public "further down the track there will be opportunities for the public to attend public meetings on the subject".

A referendum on the merger proposal is likely to be held late this year.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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