Independent review of merger welcomed

By Peter de Graaf

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The Northland Regional Council is welcoming a government agency's decision to assess the Far North District Council's plans for a unitary authority, saying it's glad the proposal is now in the hands of an independent body.

The Local Government Commission agreed last week to consider the FNDC's proposal to scrap the NRC - in the Far North anyway - and take on the regional council's responsibilities.

The FNDC plan also reserves three seats at the council table for Maori.

The proposal, unsurprisingly, has not been warmly received in the NRC's Whangarei offices.

Chairman Craig Brown said the NRC was pleased the FNDC's proposal would now be overseen by an independent body, and would assist the commission in any way it could.

He was also pleased the commission has recognised the implications of the Far North proposal on the Whangarei and Kaipara district councils, the NRC and their ratepayers.

In the meantime, the NRC would continue with its plans for a fact-finding exercise to see what form of local government Northlanders wanted.

"We will reserve our collective judgment until those views are known. We also note a potential opportunity exists to undertake this important consultation collaboratively with our Whangarei and Kaipara district council counterparts."

Local government reform should be driven by Northlanders and any changes should be made collaboratively and with full community engagement, he said.

WDC chief executive Mark Simpson said his council took a similar view, and was discussing the potential for a joint consultation programme with the NRC and the Kaipara District Council.

In October, the WDC resolved to come up with options for reform, prepare a detailed report, and develop a public consultation programme.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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