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Northland submissions and hearings

The Commission released its draft proposal for a single unitary authority 12 November 2013. The submission period closed 21 February 2014. Hearings were conducted throughout Northland in April of that year.

The Commission received a total of 1,894 submissions on the draft proposal. There was significant opposition to the draft proposal as shown below:

  • 142 (7.50%) supported the proposal to some degree, including one submission with a petition attached signed by 283 people
  • 1710 (90.28%) opposed the proposal, including 348 submissions on a standard form
  • 42 (2.22%) were neutral on the proposal or they focused on particular aspects and did not specify their overall position.

Those submissions able to be sourced to a particular district in the region were classified as the following:

Submissions

For proposal

Against proposal

Total

Far North District

47(9.22%)

463(90.78%)

510

Whangarei District

51(4.48%)

1088(95.52%)

1139

Kaipara District

34(21.38%)

125(78.62%)

159

 

132(7.30%)

1676(92.70%)

1808*

*The percentages are based on the 1808 submissions that were from identifiable Northland districts. Those not listed in the table are either neutral and/or not able to be categorised by area or were from outside Northland. Note there were a number of organisations who submitted from outside Northland.

Analysis of the submissions and the hearings that followed gave the key issues listed below:

  • Local democracy – concern was expressed that the proposal would result in the loss of local decision making and specifically that there were too few community representatives in the proposed unitary authority.
  • Costs and efficiencies – some submitters expressed a concern that the proposal would result in increasing costs and that there was no proof of efficiencies from amalgamation.
  • Size of the council – some submitters felt that smaller communities would be marginalised and region was too large to be governed by one council.  This view was heard most from Far North and west Kaipara submitters. Submitters from the Hokianga wanted local government in the region to revert to smaller entities similar to the pre 1989 county councils.
  • Community boards – most submitters opposed the use of community boards and either preferred local boards with more powers or wanted the draft proposal abandoned. The inability of a local board or community board to levy rates was cited as a significant reason to oppose changing the status quo. There was also comment on changes to boundaries so that they better reflected the communities of interest.
  • Māori representation – there were mixed views on this. Some opposed special treatment while some commented that they supported current Māori representation. Some Māori groups and individuals emphasised the importance of the Treaty and its principles (notably partnership) and wanted a stronger statutory basis for Māori to participate.
  • Debt and rating - Whangarei submitters in particular placed emphasis on the Kaipara debt situation and rating risks arising from the proposal, including the potential under a new authority for cross subsidisation to occur. There was discussion of the relative merits of capital versus land value rating. Concern was expressed at the inability of ratepayers on low incomes to pay more in rates. There was discussion of the current rates arrears in some council areas, particularly the Far North District.
  • Ring fencing of debt and assets – there was discussion as to whether ring-fencing of both debt and the income from assets in each area was realistic and questions as to how long a future council would be required to keep the ring-fencing in place.
  • Alternatives to a single council – some submitters suggested a transfer of functions
  • Status quo – a theme of the submissions was that there was nothing wrong with the status quo or that while it “wasn’t perfect” there was no need to change to the extent proposed.
  • Regional council – there was some support for the retention of the regional council given its independence and ability to monitor the environment and the district authorities.