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Commission supports shared services for Northland, closes formal reorganisation process

Date: 2 November 2017

Having worked and liaised with Northland councils on shared services projects over the past two years, the Local Government Commission has decided 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 closes off the reorganisation process which started with the lodging of an application by the Far North District Council in December 2012. (See Northland reorganisation)

The Commission had previously issued a draft proposal for the establishment of a single unitary council for the whole Northland region in November 2013.  After considering submissions made in response to this the Commission decided in May 2015 that it would not proceed with that proposal, but would engage further with the Northland local authorities with a view to identifying another reorganisation proposal. 

Commissioner Brendan Duffy said that the decision not to issue a further reorganisation proposal reflected the results of both the earlier submission process, and the Commission’s further engagement with the councils since that time.

“The Commission is conscious of the efforts being made by the Northland councils to explore and advance shared services arrangements as a means of delivering better value to their ratepayers, and it wishes to work with the Northland councils to further advance these.

“The ongoing development of such shared services arrangements is, at this time, the best option to promote good local government in the region, rather than more far-reaching options such as the amalgamations of councils.” Mr Duffy said.

In addition he noted that the Commission “does not believe that there is a sufficient level of community support in the region for more formal reorganisation options to be concluded successfully at this time. We are however likely to issue some further recommendations to the councils on how they might improve outcomes for their communities through better collaboration.’’

The Commission would do so under its general powers to consider and report on issues affecting local authorities and to promote good practice in local government.

Questions and Answers: The Commission’s decision

Q: What happens now?

A: The Northland region is no longer subject of a formal local government reorganisation process.  The existing councils Far North, Whangarei and Kaipara District Councils, and the Northland Regional Council will continue to exist as they are now.

Q: Does this mean the Commission will no longer be active on the Northland region?

A: No, the Commission will continue to work with the four councils.  The Commission may decide to report to the Councils and Minister making specific recommendations.

Q: Why is the Commission staying involved with Northland?

A: The Commission believes that the work started by the Northland councils to explore and develop shared services arrangements has the potential to significantly improve local services in the region, and the Commission wishes to continue to support this. 

Q: What type of shared services is the Commission interested in?

A: The Northland Councils have identified a wide range of potential opportunities. However, the Commission is particularly interested in the more substantial areas of council activity, such as the further development of the Northland Transportation Alliance, and the potential for a more cohesive approach to the four waters.

Q: Can another reorganisation application be made

A: Yes, a further application could be made by any person, at any time.  However, applications must meet criteria set out in the Local Government Act 2002, and the Commission has some discretion if the proposal covers similar matters to those previously considered. 

The process so far

December 2012: Application from Far North District Council to become a unitary authority. The Local Government Commission accepts the application and determines that the whole Northland region is the “affected area”.

March 2013: The Local Government Commission notifies the application and calls for alternative applications:  41 responses are received

May to August 2013: The Commission met with all affected local authorities, with a wide range of other interested individuals and groups, and held a series of public meetings at locations throughout the region.

November 2013: The Commission released a draft proposal for the establishment of a unitary authority for the whole Northland region to be called the Northland Council, and called for submissions. 

February 2014: Submissions closed. A total of 1,894 were received.  A large majority (90.3%) of submissions were opposed to the proposal.

May 2015: The Commission decides not to proceed to issue a final proposal and instead seeks to identify another preferred option as the basis for a new draft proposal.

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 Executive’s Forum. 

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


Media contact:

Simon Cunliffe | Local Government Commission | Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua

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