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Local Government Commission decides to assess an application by the Far North District Council to become a unitary authority

Date: 30 January 2013

The Local Government Commission has decided to assess an application received from the Far North District Council proposing that it become a unitary authority. A unitary authority performs the functions of both a territorial authority (city or district council) and a regional council.

At present Far North District forms part of Northland Region along with Whangarei and Kaipara Districts. The application only relates to Far North District.

The Commission has decided that the balance of Northland Region, i.e. Whangarei and Kaipara Districts, is also affected. As a result, the applicant was required to show there is a degree of community support for the application from the other two districts as well as from Far North District.

Currently there are five unitary authorities in New Zealand: Auckland, Gisborne, Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman. All other district or city councils in the country work under a two tier regional and district/city council framework, with the two types of councils carrying out a different set of tasks and having separate regulatory and planning responsibilities.

The process of applying to change local government structures, boundaries and functions is set out in Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002 and has a number of distinct stages as set out in amended legislation enacted in December 2012. A number of these stages require community consultation and demonstrations of community support either for an application or for change to local government arrangements generally. The Far North District Council application has still to meet these further requirements. The final decision on local government reorganisation in an area will be in the hands of electors of the area if they demand a poll be conducted on any final proposal.

On receiving a reorganisation application, the Commission first assesses an application to determine whether it is a valid application and it meets content requirements for applications. This was the decision made by the Local Government Commission at a special meeting on 23 January.

The next stages of the process are as follows:

  • the Commission considers whether there is evidence of community support across Northland Region for change to existing local government arrangements
  • if the Commission is satisfied there is evidence of community support (it does not have to be a majority at this stage), the Commission will then notify the application and seek alternative applications
  • the Commission will then consider any alternatives alongside the status quo (the existing arrangements) as well as the Far North application.
  • if the Commission selects an option other than the existing arrangements as its preferred option, the Commission is then required to prepare a draft proposal based on one or more of the applications and publicly notify the draft proposal and call for submissions
  • after considering submissions, consulting and carrying out any necessary investigations, the Commission decides whether or not to prepare a final proposal
  • the Commission then notifies the final proposal including notice that 10% or more of the electors in any one of the affected districts may petition for a poll on the proposal to be held
  • in the case of the present process, triggered by the Far North application, if more than 50% of those voting in any poll that was demanded were to support the proposal, or if no poll is called for, the final proposal would be implemented.

The Commission has published guidelines on the reorganisation process, and these may be found at www.lgc.govt.nz

Media enquiries

The Chief Executive Officer

Local Government Commission

Email: donald.riezebos@lgc.govt.nz

Phone: (04) 494 0657

Note for editors

The Local Government Commission is an independent body tasked with making decisions on local authority representation matters and all applications relating to changes to existing boundaries, functions and areas of local authorities. Its members are appointed by the Minister of Local Government.