The process for a referendum

Date: 5 December 2014

The Local Government Commission has issued a reminder of the process for staging a referendum on reorganisation of councils.

The Commission Chair, Basil Morrison, said the Commission follows the process spelled out in legislation, in particular Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002. Mr Morrison said a poll (referendum) can only be triggered on a final proposal for reorganisation. The Commission yesterday released a draft proposal.

“The release of the draft proposal kick starts a public consultation phase. The Commission now wants to hear public feedback on the draft. Submissions are called for, with a deadline of 2 March 2015. After that there will be public hearings,” Mr Morrison said.

Once the public consultation phase is complete, the Commission will decide whether to issue a final proposal. That decision is not expected till around mid-2015.

Under the legislation, electors can trigger a poll on a final proposal by signing a petition. The petition requires the signatures of 10 per cent of electors from the area of any affected council. The legislation explicitly states that signatures cannot be gathered till the final proposal is released. There are sixty working days (approximately three months) allowed to gather signatures.

Mr Morrison said the Commission’s strong preference is for the wider region to have the opportunity to vote in a referendum.

“Changes of the scale proposed should be decided by the wider region in a vote. The opportunity for a referendum will occur after the final proposal. The Commission does not have the ability to call a referendum any sooner than that point,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison also clarified reported information regarding the costs and savings of transition. The estimated total costs of transition are $184 million. The estimated savings of moving to one council are $30 million every year. The costs of transition would be recovered within eight years. (see p. 216 of Volume 2 of the Commission’s draft proposal).