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Commission releases community feedback, next steps

Date: 12 Aug 2016

The Local Government Commission has today released a summary of feedback from its Community Engagement programme on the West Coast. The engagement is part of the Commission’s process for understanding the level of support for some form of change in local government arrangements on the West Coast, following an application for reorganisation last year.

Local Government Commissioner Janie Annear said that the engagement had been useful and informative.

“We are very pleased with the number of people who took the time to be involved and the feedback the Commission has received,’’ said Mrs Annear. “The community needs to be at the heart of any possible future changes to local government arrangements and this feedback gives us an indication of the level of interest in that.

“Since the Commission received an application from the West Coast, we have worked closely with councils and the community to understand the issues in the region and to gauge levels of support for some change,’’ she said.

Between 30 May and 8 July the Commission engaged with the West Coast community through community workshops, drop-in sessions, stakeholder meetings, newspaper advertisements and articles, radio advertising, shop-window posters, an on-line and hard-copy questionnaire, and a pamphlet distributed throughout the region.

The results of the engagement process are published in the attached West Coast Local Government Arrangements – Summary of Community Feedback, August 2016*. This document sets out the form of engagement undertaken and summarises the responses. It shows that 54 per cent of questionnaire respondents thought that some council services – such as roading and transport, planning and consent services, and in-house services such as information technology – could be better delivered as shared services over all or part of the region.

It also indicated that 44 per cent of questionnaire respondents considered that some West Coast councils should be combined. Of those who supported this, options suggested include joining Grey and Westland districts, combining all four councils, or spreading regional council functions over the three existing districts.

“Taken overall, these results tell us that there is a sufficient level of community support for continuing to consider the possibility of some change in local government arrangements,  but it is still very early days,’’ Mrs Annear said.

The next step in the process will be for the Commission to call for alternative applications for local government change options on the West Coast. This is scheduled for February 2017 after the local body elections and when the new councils are up and running.

At the same time the Commission will provide an outline of potential change options – developed from community feedback and through the Commission’s work with West Coast councils. People may wish to comment on these possibilities and make their own proposals.

“From the community feedback we have received and from the constructive relationships the Commission and the councils have established, we are well-placed to further this joint work early next year,’’ Mrs Annear said.

“We will also continue to work with the West Coast councils on joint regional efficiency initiatives, specifically regional road arrangements and joint RMA planning.’’

*Hard copies of the document West Coast Local Government Arrangements – Summary of Community Feedback, August 2016 will be available by the end of next week at council offices, libraries and some i-Sites throughout the West Coast. Electronic copies are available now on the Commission’s website: www.lgc.govt.nz

Next steps

  • In February 2017 there will be formal public notification of the application, including a call for alternative applications
  • Alongside this the Commission will provide an outline of potential change options – developed from community feedback and through the Commission’s work with West Coast councils. People may wish to comment on these possibilities and make their own proposals
  • Following receipt of the alternative applications, the Commission will identify practical options for change, choose a preferred option and, if this is not the status quo, will develop a draft proposal
  • Any draft proposal would be subject to further community consultation including submissions and a series of hearings
  • Following this feedback, if the Commission decided to proceed it would issue a final proposal. Otherwise it can choose to end the process, or identify a new draft proposal for consultation

Brief history of the application

  • In August 2015 the Local Government Commission agreed to assess a reorganisation application seeking some change to local government arrangements on the West Coast
  • The application was lodged by Anthea Keenan and Peter Salter and was supported by a petition with 367 signatures, including significant numbers from each of the three districts
  • The Commission began a series of visits to the West Coast including meetings with the applicants, and the region’s mayors, councils and other stakeholders to understand the region’s issues
  • In March 2016, separate to but alongside progressing the reorganisation application, the Commission and the West Coast councils signed a relationship agreement to collaborate on two regional efficiency initiatives: regional road arrangements and joint RMA planning
  • Between the end of May and early July the Commission ran an extensive community engagement programme on the West Coast to help gauge levels of community support for some change in local government arrangements 

Questions and Answers

Q: Does this mean some form of change on the West Coast is inevitable?

A: No. The status quo must be part of any suite of options considered by the Commission in developing any draft proposal.

Q: Why the delay until February?

A: The period leading up to the local body election in October is not considered to be an appropriate time in which to canvass possible changes to local government arrangements. It is also considered that new councils will need time to bed in before engaging on this work – this and the summer holiday period suggests the most effective time to proceed on the reorganisation process is February 2017.

Q: In gauging demonstrable community support for change, does the Commission have to show a majority support some form of change?

A:  No. The Commission is guided by the legislation (Local Government Act 2002, Schedule 3, Subpart 2, 8 (3) b) which expressly says the Commission does not need to determine that a majority support change.

Q: How many people took part in the Commission’s community engagement programme?

A: A total of 699 people completed the questionnaire on paper and online and within the timeframe given. The Commission also heard from more than 200 people in community workshops, drop-in sessions and other meetings throughout the West Coast.

Q: If there is an eventual proposal for some form of council combination will there be a poll?

A: Under the legislation if there is a proposal to combine any councils a poll can be requested by 10 per cent of the electors in any one of the affected districts. 

 

Media contact:

Simon Cunliffe | Local Government Commission

DDI +64 4 474 8164 | MOB +64 27 809 3833 | simon.cunliffe@dia.govt.nz