Dannevirke: Councillors wary of amendment bill

By Christine McKay

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Tararua District Council's chief executive Blair King.
Tararua District Council's chief executive Blair King.

Amalgamation by stealth is how the Local Government Act Amendment Bill has been described by Tararua District Council's chief executive Blair King.

The district council held an extraordinary meeting on Friday morning to discuss some aspects of the amendment bill, (No 2) which was introduced into Parliament on June 9, under the banner "Better Local Services".

The council is making a submission on the bill, because of major concerns about some aspects, which may have a significant impact on the way council services are delivered.

"It's a very poorly drafted piece of legislation and an attempt to cut through local democracy, I believe because the Local Government Commission couldn't get amalgamations past councils and communities," Mr King said. "If all these key functions are stripped from council, it's by stealth creating amalgamations."

Prior to the extraordinary meeting Peter Wimsett, council's manager strategy and district development, told the Dannevirke News although the legislation initially appeared "innocuous", it was only when staff started to analyse it they realised it was amalgamation by stealth.

Mr Wimsett said $849 million, or 95 per cent of council's assets could be swept away.

"We could end up with only a tiny fraction of our base left."

And with TDC part way through its upgrade of water assets, Mr Wimsett asked, "so what's the problem?"

Tararua District mayor Roly Ellis said the Bill was "the thin end of the wedge".

"It's amalgamation, one, two three, all small rural councils doing well will be thrown in the big pot, with no say.

"I've seen very, very little consultation and always at the last minute."

And while Malcolm Thomas, council's strategy and policy adviser, told councillors there were a number of quite useful things in the bill, there are some aspects not favourable to TDC.

"The Local Government Commission could remove from direct council control 95 per cent of your assets with no discussion. It's a pretty extraordinary thing," he said. "A lot of things in the bill give CCOs power, but it lacks accountability or any community consultation."

Councillor David Roberts said the council was being forced into something he didn't like to see.

"We shouldn't be dictated too, this is not acceptable," he said.

And deputy mayor Bill Keltie said it was a loss of democracy.

"It's a takeover by stealth.

"We shouldn't give them a sniff of us agreeing with them at all. We want to be as angry as possible."

Eketahuna-based councillor Tracey Collis was adamant the community, as well as council, needed to be consulted on the bill.

"We don't want to see this again, but unfortunately we've seen this before, but this isn't how we do things in our community. I'm deeply concerned.

"We should be vigorously opposed to some aspects of this bill and indicate we are unhappy with the lack of consultation with us and our communities," Mrs Collis said.

Council law overhaul:

The Local Government and Environment Select Committee has called for submission on the LGA 2002 Amendment Bill.

The bill proposes substantial changes to four aspects of the Local Government Act 2002:

• Providing a more comprehensive accountability framework for the Local Government Commission.
• Introducing a new model of local government reorganisation.
• Creating new and substantive and multiply-owned Council Controlled Organisations (CCO) including models designed specifically for water and transport services.
• Giving the Minister of Local Government the authority to set performance measures for councils.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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