Case begins to replace four local councils

A working group aiming to replace Northland's four councils with two unitary authorities will present its case for improved local government in the Far North to community leaders next month.

The Far North District Council and Taitokerau Iwi Leaders Forum formed a working group in April to develop a unitary authority initiative responding to Government proposals for local government reforms while also advancing Maori representation.

The Better Local Government in the Far North Working Group is co-chaired by Far North Mayor Wayne Brown and Rangitane Marsden (Te Hiku). Members are Sonny Tau, George Riley and Fred Sadler (Te Runanga-a-Iwi O Ngapuhi), Pita Tipene (Te Runanga o Ngati Hine) and David Edmunds and Tracy Dalton (Far North District Council).

Te Hiku representative Rangitane Marsden, of Ngai Takoto, said the group had identified 10 reasons why the Far North would be better served by a unitary authority rather than a district and regional council, including:

Removing a layer of government and creating a more localised government structure to better meet the needs of rural communities

Getting rid of duplication, minimising costs, and simplifying planning so people who need resource consents only have to deal with one council

Improving management of regional assets and economic development strategies.

The group will outline its case to the Iwi Leaders Forum, Far North District Councillors and community board members on July 26 before consulting with iwi and community groups.

"We need to build community understanding about what we are trying to achieve here, but we also want to hear any concerns people may have about the proposal," Mr Marsden said.

The group will invite community groups to give feedback on its proposal in August and September, and submit its proposal to the Local Government Commission in October. The group will have to show its proposal has significant community support.

The commission will assess the proposal and decide whether to reject it, return it to the group for further work or develop it for public consultation.

The Better Local Government in the Far North Working Group was formed after a meeting between Northland mayors, iwi leaders and former Local Government Minister Nick Smith in February.

In 2010 the Whangarei and Far North District councils commissioned ex-National Party leader Don Brash and retired judge Sir Peter Trapski to look into local-body reform in Northland.

- Northern Advocate

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