One council to rule us all

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The need for a single voice for Northland and for local communities to keep their special identities is reflected in the local government model proposed for the region, says the Local Government Commission.

The commission's draft proposal, released at Waitangi on Tuesday, is for one council (based in Whangarei) and one mayor to speak with a region-wide voice, with a second tier of boards to represent local communities.

The Northland Council, which would replace the Far North, Whangarei and Kaipara district councils, and the Northland Regional Council, would be a unitary authority, combining the functions of the district and regional councils.

It would comprise nine councillors elected from seven wards, and a mayor be elected by all Northland voters, with seven community boards, each with six elected members.

The seven council wards and community boards would share the same boundaries, the LGC recommending the names Te Hiku (far north), Hokianga-Kaikohe (north-west), Coastal North (north-east), Coastal Central (east), Whangarei (south-east), Coastal South (south-east), and Kaipara (south-west).

As with the proposal in its entirety, the names are open to public submission.

The Northland Council would also have a standing committee to ensure the views of Maori were heard. A Maori board would include elected members of the council and representatives of all iwi, while a Maori advisory committee would advise the council committee responsible for issues under the Resource Management Act.

The administrative headquarters would be in Whangarei but the council would also have offices in Kaitaia, Rawene, Kaeo, Kerikeri, Kaikohe, Kawakawa, Ruakaka, Mangawhai and Dargaville.

Existing council debt, rates and other financial arrangements would be ring-fenced to the communities that incurred. or benefited from them.

LGC chairman Basil Morrison said a Northland Council and its community boards would have a total of 52 elected representatives, about one for every 2974 people. The current regime of three mayors, one chairman and 61 elected members equated to one representative for every 2615 people.

"A whole of Northland approach is designed to bind together all communities to create a stronger strategic vision for the region," he said.

"One Northland council would provide more effective advocacy when dealing with central government, public sector agencies and commercial interests. It would create simplified and streamlined processes for residents and ratepayers. At the same time, community boards recognise the diverse local communities of the region. The boards would be empowered to make decisions on matters that directly affect their local communities."

The commission acknowledged concerns about the potential for uneven or unfair rates across the region, with targeted rates on properties in areas that had benefited from "certain" council projects.

"The whole of Northland approach, coupled with the region-wide layer of community boards, meets the purpose and principles of good local government. It enables democratic local decision-making, it meets the future needs for good-quality infrastructure, services and regulatory oversight, and it is cost-effective," Mr Morrison said.

The commission wants public submissions on the draft proposal, closing on February 14. It also intends to hold public hearings throughout the region.

The proposal document, which includes submission guidelines, is available at www.lgc.govt.nz. The councils are being encouraged to have it available at council offices and public libraries. Digital copies can be obtained by emailing info@lgc.govt.nz.

- Northland Age

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