Transport alliance launched

By Alexandra Newlove

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Colin Dale of FNDC, KDC commissioner John Robertson, NRC chairman Bill Shepherd, Far North Mayor John Carter and Sheryl Mai, mayor of Whangarei, at yesterday's launch of the councils' first shared service alliance. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Colin Dale of FNDC, KDC commissioner John Robertson, NRC chairman Bill Shepherd, Far North Mayor John Carter and Sheryl Mai, mayor of Whangarei, at yesterday's launch of the councils' first shared service alliance. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Northlanders can expect better roads for their rates in the coming years as the region's four councils join together under the region's first shared service model.

The Northland Transportation Alliance (NTA), launched yesterday in Whangarei, is expected to deliver $18 million of benefits over the next 10 years through reduced duplication of staff, the co-ordination of work programmes and bigger buying power when it came to contracts.

Whangarei Mayor and Northland Mayoral Forum chairwoman Sheryl Mai said ultimately the alliance would see "more roads resealed, more roads upgraded and a better cycleway network". But to start with, the new set up from July 1 would be "business as usual".

She stressed the alliance was not part of a slow slide towards a Northland "super council" - an idea strongly rejected by ratepayers last year.

"We set the parameters early on ... Each of the councils will continue to have its own budgets and priorities. We are looking for efficiencies," she said.

Most of the New Zealand Transport Agency's Northland staff would also join the NTA, based primarily from Whangarei's Walton Plaza, though councils would still employ their own staff, based throughout Northland.

Far North Mayor John Carter said any jobs relocated to Whangarei from elsewhere in the region would be replaced through future projects where the councils looked to collaborate.

"We've been careful around that ... We want to ensure that staffing is spread across the north," Mr Carter said.

He said it was important for councils to maintain their "political independence" as they explored shared service options.

Northland Regional Council chairman Bill Shepherd said the NTA was about doing more for the same amount of money, rather than reducing the amount each council spent. Smaller businesses could be protected through a compulsory component of subcontractor involvement as contracts became larger. The four councils spend about $86 million a year on roading and transport.

The NTA was the first major initiative to come out of the Northland Forward Together strategic collaboration, which the four councils ratified late last year. Around that time then-Local Government Minister Paula Bennett said regions that looked at integrating their core services could be in line for a infrastructure funding "top up".

Ms Mai said she did not see this as a "dangled carrot", however there were situations where the Government had funded work in Northland in exchange for evidence that councils were collaborating. The councils were also investigating the benefits of using the same IT and rates collection systems.

- Northern Advocate

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