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Revised position on Hawke’s Bay local government

Date: 17 November 2014

The Local Government Commission has announced a revised position on the best structure for councils in Hawke’s Bay. It has also spelled out its next steps for testing the level of community support for change.

The Commission completed public hearings into its draft proposal for reorganisation in June. Since then it has held further discussions with affected parties, and Parliament has amended legislation which directly affects the original reorganisation proposal.

The Commission Chair Basil Morrison says the ongoing discussions have informed and influenced the Commission’s views.

“The Commission has now revised its position on some key elements of the proposal,” Mr Morrison said. “We are adding an extra step to our processes by releasing additional information to update people about the best way forward.”

The Commission has produced a position paper to explain how the proposed reforms could change if it decides to proceed through further stages.

The position paper suggests a number of changes, including:

  • the number of proposed councillors will double from nine to eighteen
  • local boards, rather than community boards, will be created to represent established Hawke’s Bay communities
  • the local boards will have the maximum possible level of power and responsibility for decisions affecting their areas
  • two councillors from each ward will be appointed to their relevant local board to ensure good coordination and communication across the wider council
  • area offices will be established in Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, Waipawa, and a service centre in Waipukurau. Council services to the public will be decentralised to these locations as far as possible
  • small areas of Rangitikei and Taupo districts remain excluded from the region, but their regional council functions (e.g. river catchment management) will be provided by the new Hawke’s Bay Council
  • the Commission has reserved its position on the ring-fencing of existing council debt, pending further information and analysis. It recently asked councils to provide an update of both existing financial arrangements and future infrastructure and asset investment requirements. The Commission anticipates providing its assessment of this information in February 2015.

The Commission will engage an independent research company during the first quarter of 2015 to test public support for the revised position through a survey across the wider region. It also plans to circulate information more widely to Hawke’s Bay households.

The Commission is not calling for further submissions or embarking on a new round of hearings as a result of the position paper.

“The earlier round of public submissions and hearings were valuable and helped the Commission to fine-tune its position”, Mr Morrison said.

Once this interim step is complete, the Commission will decide whether to issue a Final Proposal of some sort or to leave the status quo arrangements in place. Hawke’s Bay residents and ratepayers still retain the ability to trigger a referendum on any Final Proposal.

“The Commission appreciates the ongoing co-operation and assistance provided by councils and other affected parties in Hawke’s Bay as it works towards identifying the structure that best promotes good local government in the region”, Mr Morrison said.