Napier submits 600 pages fighting merger

By Simon Hendery

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Lawrence Yule
Lawrence Yule

The battle over amalgamation has always been a paper war, with both sides using conflicting reports and submissions to argue their case.

Yesterday, anti-amalgamation council Napier City detonated its nuclear weapon: an almost 600-page submission to the Local Government Commission.

The weighty two-volume tome prepared by councillors and staff was signed off at a special council meeting convened just ahead of tomorrow's deadline for feedback on the commission's proposal to merge Hawke's Bay's five councils into a single authority.

While most other submitters have taken less than a dozen pages to argue their case, Napier City Council's main 76-page submission was longer than the commission's 56-page draft amalgamation proposal.

The council also included a 500-page volume of appendices with its submission - a collection of past reports, studies, news clippings and even a 2009 letter from Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule thanking the council's civil defence team for helping stranded motorists during a snowstorm.

In preparing the submission, the council commissioned new research from local economist Sean Bevin, which concluded that amalgamation would cost Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay between $3 million-$4 million, and either Napier or Hastings between $20 million-$44 million, depending where the headquarters of a super council was located.

"One of our cities will be decimated," the submission said.

Mr Yule, an amalgamation supporter, has previously rejected claims communities will suffer financially through a shifting of council services if the merger goes ahead. He has said council services will remain spread across the region in existing facilities as it would not make sense to centralise them.

Councillor Mark Hamilton said at yesterday's council meeting he believed the region required some form of amalgamation.

"I agree with the submission that what's been presented to us [by the commission] doesn't work but it would have been more productive, I think, if we had put something forward that we think would have worked as opposed to just trashing the [proposal]."

Councillor Roy Sye said he was not opposed to some form of amalgamation but he did not support the commission's proposal or the process that was being followed in an attempt to bring about change.

"My plea to this council is that if this proposal is defeated, we continue to explore how we can make local government even better in Hawke's Bay."

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said that "when this proposal for reorganisation is defeated, I will be the first to put my hand up and suggest that everyone in Hawke's Bay begins a proper conversation about what could be a shared vision for Hawke's Bay, so we can move to a governance structure that meets the need of a shared vision".

"Right now, we are looking at having a governance structure imposed upon us without ever having the opportunity to develop that shared vision."

Central Hawke's Bay and Wairoa District councils have also lodged submissions opposing the amalgamation proposal and it emerged yesterday that the three councils were also submitting a joint submission in opposition.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council has also voted to lodge a submission in opposition to amalgamation, although councillors were split over the issue.

Hastings District Council's submission supports amalgamation but suggests changes to the commission's proposal.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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