1700 have say on changes

By Lindy Laird

1 comment
Chairman Bill Shepherd said "it's far more important to get any reorganisation done right, rather than to get it done fast". Photo / Peter Jackson
Chairman Bill Shepherd said "it's far more important to get any reorganisation done right, rather than to get it done fast". Photo / Peter Jackson

Northland has spoken out through more than 1700 submissions made on the Local Government Commission's draft plan to replace the region's four local government bodies with a single authority.

The merging of responsibilities of Whangarei, Kaipara and Far North district and Northland regional councils could take place from November next year if the Local Government Commission (LGC) pushes through its own controversial recommendations.

Another option for reform could be considered if at least 10 per cent of voters from any of the affected councils called for a referendum.

The submissions on the draft proposal closed last Friday and LGC staff are still processing them.

Next steps will be public hearings starting in early March, held at the main centres in each council area.

The commission will then analyse all the information and submissions.

The four options local government legislation allows are to issue the draft proposal as a final proposal, modify it, issue a new draft proposal based on a different preferred option or decide not to issue any proposal.

Whangarei District and Northland Regional councils do not support the current proposal.

The regional council's submission said more work was needed by the LGC and a fresh draft should be issued.

Chairman Bill Shepherd said that while the NRC wanted the best possible local government model for Northland, "it's far more important to get any reorganisation done right, rather than to get it done fast".

The LGC should wait until law changes were brought in to create stronger local boards with their own powers and budgets, Mr Shepherd said.

The regional council agreed that a single Northland-wide voice would be a significant advantage when advocating to central government and other parties.

After extensive public canvassing and meetings to gauge opinion, last week the Whangarei council cited a "lack of demonstrable community support" for the proposed reform model.

Tricia Cutforth was a lone voice opposing the submission, saying the council had shown bias in its feedback gathering and an opportunity to bring effective change to Northland was being lost.

Kaipara District Council, comprising three government-appointed commissioners, has avoided taking a position but offered "feedback" on some points.

The Far North District Council rejected the unitary proposal in December but has opted out of sending a submission, instead putting the onus back on the community, providing discussion papers, supporting public meetings and encouraging community boards to make "voice of the people" submissions.

- Northern Advocate

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