Editorial: Merger is now issue at election

By Andrew Austin

The decision by Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott not to seek re-election has certainly changed the political landscape in the run-up to the local government elections in October.

While some may see this as her raising the white flag in her fight against amalgamation of Hawke's Bay's councils, Mrs Arnott is adamant that she is leaving for personal and family reasons. Her parents are elderly and she wants to spend more time with them.

Most people - even her opponents - will acknowledge that Mrs Arnott has been a hardworking mayor for her city, Napier. You don't serve four terms without doing at least some things well.

Her decision has certainly made things interesting. A new mayor's stance on amalgamation will be crucial to the debate. It will certainly show us, once and for all, where the people of Napier stand on the issue.

In the meantime, things are certainly heating up. Lobby group A Better Hawke's Bay has submitted a proposal for council amalgamation which would see Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, Central Hawke's Bay and Hawke's Bay regional councils merge. The Local Government Commission is currently accepting alternative proposals for consideration.

But on top of all this, last week the Hawke's Bay Regional Council voted 6-3 for an alternative proposal - an East Coast Regional Council that encompassed Horizons' Tararua Ward and Wellington's Wairarapa Ward.

As always when it comes to governance issues that ultimately affect how people live and do business, there are some strong voices out there who believe their model is the best.

There is a long way to go before any decision on changes is made. This election may not be for an amalgamated council, but amalgamation certainly will be one of the main election issues.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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