Chance to have your say on merging councils

By Lindy Laird

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Northland Regional Council Chairman Bill Shepherd.
Northland Regional Council Chairman Bill Shepherd.

Another round of public meetings debating the proposed merging of Northland's four local governments is due to be launched.

"The meetings are to ensure members of the public have as much information as possible, to discuss the merits and disadvantages of the Local Government Commission's preferred model, and to hear people's views and suggested improvements," Northland Regional Council chairman Bill Shepherd said.

Feedback gathered at the meetings will help influence the NRC's formal submission on the proposal. That submission has to be in to the Local Government Commission (LGC) by Friday, February 21.

The reform process was triggered after the Wayne Brown-led Far North District Council and an iwi leaders' forum lodged an application in late 2012 to reorganise local government in Northland. That move was quickly acted on by the commission, which wants fewer district councils.

The LGC announced its draft plan in November to replace Whangarei, Kaipara and Far North District and Northland Regional councils with a unitary Northland Council, from November 2015. The new council would have nine councillors, seven wards, a mayor elected by the district as a whole, seven elected community boards, and two Maori boards with iwi-appointed members.

Whangarei District Council will resist the proposal, Mayor Sheryl Mai saying residents could be disadvantaged under a single unitary authority.

Ms Mai said much of the bigger council's proposed funding would come from the Whangarei area, with no guarantee where it would be spent. The council also felt the proposed regime reduced local representation.

Mr Shepherd and NRC chief executive Malcolm Nicolson have already chaired meetings in Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Russell, Omapere and Kaiwaka. The draft is open for submissions and, once the final plan is ready, Northlanders can force a binding poll through a petition signed by 10 per cent of voters in any one of Northland's three districts.

The next NRC meetings will be: Ruakaka Recreation Centre, January, 30, 7-9pm; Tutukaka, Oceans Resort Hotel, January 31, 7-9pm; Parua Bay Community Centre, February 3, 7-9pm; Whangarei, Northland Regional Council chambers, February 10, 7-9pm.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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