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2018: Northland reorganisation

Overview:

Working with Northland councils: Recommendations

Northland councils' response to recommendations

The four Northland councils responded to the Commission's report Enhancing Local Government for Northland on 12 July 2018. 

You can see the councils' response here: Northland councils' response

Commission's recommendations to Northland councils

While the formal reorganisation process had concluded the Commission continued to work with the Northland councils in support of their efforts to enhance regional collaboration and explore the development of shared services.

In May 2018 the Commission made a series of recommendations to the Northland councils: Enhancing Local Government in Northland - Recommendations (.PDF, 321KB) 

Formal closure of the Northland reorganisation application process

Having worked and liaised with Northland councils on shared services projects over the previous two years, the Local Government Commission decided in October 2017 not to issue a new draft reorganisation proposal for the region. While the Commission will continue to support councils’ efforts to develop such shared arrangements, this decision formally closed off the reorganisation process which started with the lodging of an application by the Far North District Council in December 2012.

Working with Northland councils: Milestones 2016-2017

While the Commission had decided not to proceed with the original reorganisation application, it did decide, however, to continue to work with the Northland councils to support their efforts to improve local governance and service delivery in the region and agreed it may in future issue further recommendations to the councils on how they might improve outcomes for their communities through better collaboration. The Commission noted it would do so under its general powers to consider and report on issues affecting local authorities and to promote good practice in local government.

The Commission agreed its further work should fit into the Northland councils’ existing strategic and shared services project. Councils would remain sponsors of the work streams, with the Commission looking to add value where it could. In this vein, the councils agreed to a four-waters (waste, storm, potable and flood management) study funded by the Commission, to arrive at a joint and agreed understanding of the state of the region’s, and each council’s, assets.

Milestones were:

April 2016: A Memorandum of Understanding between the Commission and councils was agreed around how the parties would work together across the shared services area and the Commission’s reorganisation process.

September 2016: Reports from consultants on the current state of water assets, covering drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and flood protection, and on the councils’ ICT architecture were presented to the Northland Chief Executives' Forum. 

October 2017: Local Government Commission decides to not issue a new draft reorganisation proposal bringing the formal reorganisation process to an end.

History of the reorganisation application

In late 2012 the Far North District Council in association with a Far North District Local Government Working Group lodged a reorganisation application with the Local Government Commission. The application was for that council to become a unitary authority, a council with the powers of both a regional and district council.

The Commission decided that the applicant had supplied sufficient information for the application to be accepted and assessed. It also determined that the area, and its communities, affected by the application was the whole of the Northland Region.

The Commission then went through the subsequent process stages:

  • Publicly notifying the application and calling for alternative applications
  • Assessing all of the alternative responses, the original application, the status quo and an option developed by the Commission against criteria in the statute in the process of selecting four reasonably practicable options to further consider
  • Assessing these four options against other statutory criteria to identify a preferred option. This preferred option was a single unitary authority in the region and the abolition of the four existing councils
  • Releasing a draft proposal based on the preferred option
  • Consulting on the draft proposal, receiving submissions and carrying out hearings
  • Continuing to consult statutory parties, analysing feedback and investigating existing local government arrangements

In June 2015 the Commission announced it would not proceed with a proposal for a unitary council in the Northland Region. It said it would return to the community and work with it to identify major challenges and the options for dealing with them.

The Commission considered the matters affecting existing local government arrangements in Northland were still ‘live issues’ and potentially continued to prevent the delivery of ‘good local government’. Its decision was therefore, in consultation with the affected councils and other statutory parties, to reconsider other options for change before coming to a final decision.  

The Commission's decision was to abandon its proposal to create a single unitary authority in the region because of a clear lack of “demonstrable community support” and instead return to review other possible options. The Commission said it had listened to the Northland community and responded accordingly

The Commission’s main reason to not release a final proposal at that stage and also not abandon the process at that stage was that the Commission felt that the trends affecting local government in Northland may not be best managed by the current arrangements and the Commission would like to explore other options before making a final decision. The Commission accepted that there was insufficient support for its draft proposal, but it had no other preferred option in mind at that stage. It wished to consult further with the affected councils and other statutory parties.