CHB gets along fine on its own

By Simon Hendery

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Central Hawke's Bay District Council chief executive John Freeman (left) and CHB Deputy Mayor Ian Sharp explained the council's submission to the Local Government Commission in Waipawa yesterday. Photo/Paul Taylor
Central Hawke's Bay District Council chief executive John Freeman (left) and CHB Deputy Mayor Ian Sharp explained the council's submission to the Local Government Commission in Waipawa yesterday. Photo/Paul Taylor

The Central Hawke's Bay district would not be adequately represented under a proposal to amalgamate the region's five councils, CHB's deputy mayor, Ian Sharp, has told the Local Government Commission.

Mr Sharp, along with Central Hawke's Bay District Council chief executive John Freeman, presented the council's submission on amalgamation to the commission at a hearing in Waipawa yesterday.

The hearing marked the start of a second round of oral submissions being heard by the commission as it considers feedback to its amalgamation proposal.

After sitting in Waipawa yesterday, commissioners will hear submissions in Napier today and Wairoa tomorrow.

Mr Sharp said the lack of representation - with only one CHB representative from a nine-member council under the commission's draft proposal - was the "main issue" his council had with the amalgamation plan.

A number of submitters from across the region have recommended to the commission that it double the size of the council to address representation issues but Mr Sharp said that solution "seems a clumsy way to address this issue".

He said claims by amalgamation supporters that CHB District Council was not financially viable were incorrect and the council had recently paid down some of its debt.

Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Peter Butler, a vocal opponent of amalgamation, had an out-of-town commitment which prevented him from fronting yesterday's council submission.

Di Petersen, a former CHB councillor and member of pro-amalgamation group A Better Hawke's Bay, told the commission the present local government structure in the region was not working.

"In our opinion, we [CHB] are unsustainable as a council because we have a small rating base of only 6000 ratepayers. We do not have the capacity to do much more than maintain the status quo.

"My plea to you is to make a decision that will stop the continual bickering between the various councils which in my opinion is embarrassing, unhelpful and unnecessary - and is one very good reason to amalgamate."

In a personal submission later in the day, Mr Freeman said he did not believe amalgamation would benefit Central Hawke's Bay.

"From my role [as council chief executive] I can see that as a small council we do things quite a bit smarter, are a lot more flexible than some of the bigger councils."

Mr Freeman said the CHB district was financially "sustainable" regardless of whether the Ruataniwha dam was build.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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