Welcome to the latest issue of the Local Government Commission newsletter.
This issue provides progress reports on the four major reorganisation applications before the Commission. It scans other developments of interest in the past six weeks, particularly involving Local Government New Zealand meetings.
The Commissioners are continuing to gather information and test thinking about the structures that would best promote good local government in the wider Northland region.
In early July the Commissioners Basil Morrison, Grant Kirby and Anne Carter held their regular monthly meeting in Whangarei rather than the usual venue in Wellington. They used the Northland visit to meet business owners and operators in the transport and forestry industries. It was the fourth fact-finding visit to the region since the reorganisation application was publicly notified in March 2013.
Meetings have now been held with more than 40 groups and subject-matter experts. Another visit is scheduled for next week when the Commission will hold eleven public meetings over five days to hear from residents and ratepayers. The meetings will be held in Dargaville, Kaikohe, Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Mangawhai, Maungaturoto, Paihia, Rawene, Russell and Whangarei.
Forty-one responses received in April as part of the alternative application process have also been considered and analysed. A summary of these alternative ideas has been published on the Commission website here.
A summary of alternative ideas for the structure of local government in Hawke’s Bay has also
been published on the Commission website here.
Nineteen responses were received by the 3 May deadline for alternative applications. They proposed a wide variety of changes to governance structures as well as the retention of status quo arrangements.
The Commissioners have already travelled to the region for meetings with the original applicant, the Better Hawke’s Bay Trust, as well as the five affected councils. Another visit is scheduled for later this week to meet farming and horticulture representatives, industry and business organisations and lobby groups.
The Commission decided to publicly notify the Wairarapa and Wellington reorganisation applications together, as foreshadowed in the last newsletter.
The first application, from Wairarapa’s three district councils, and the second application, from the Greater Wellington Regional Council, were received less than one month apart and share the same affected area.
Public notices were taken out in nine newspapers across the region to help ensure that interested groups and individuals are engaged and informed about the process. They have until 16 August to come up with alternative ideas about the shape of local authorities in the region. In the meantime, the Commissioners have met the chair, mayors, other elected members andstaff of all nine directly-affected councils. They have also met Wairarapa and Wellington iwi,some local electorate Members of Parliament, central government agencies, representatives of progressive and residents’ associations, infrastructure specialists, the Public Service Association and subject-matter experts.
Further background on the reorganisation can be found under the news and feature pages of the Commission website.
In summary, the reorganisation proposals from Northland, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa and Wellington are advancing well through their respective processes. The voices and perspectives of a number of individuals, organisations and communities are being heard.
The end point of this first stage requires the Commission to finalise a list of ‘reasonably practicable options’ for local government in each region and to then select one preferred option.
If the status quo is not the preferred option the Commission will release a draft proposal for public comment. The commission will not release decisions or proposals which cut across the nomination and campaign periods for the triennial local government elections on 12 October.
The Local Government Minister Chris Tremain told the LGNZ conference in late July that a Local Government Amendment Bill will be introduced and given its first reading before the end of the year:
A further area of reform, which will be delivered in this year’s Bill, is enhanced two-tier governance across New Zealand…Local boards have a genuine statutory role in the governance of a local authority, and cannot be disestablished unilaterally by the parent council. However, it is also important to note that they are not proposed to replace community boards – both options should be available. The sector has asked for the ability for local boards to be available to smaller regions. We will deliver this in the upcoming Bill. It will be up to the Local Government Commission in consultation with communities to determine when the addition of local boards is justified and desirable. It may be the case that local boards exist in only part of a district. In rural areas other arrangements, such as community boards or less formal bodies, like area subcommittees, might provide a local voice.
The current Act provides for the Auckland local board model to be applied only to new unitary authorities that are predominantly urban with a population of more than 400,000. In practice this probably only applies to Wellington. The immediate question for the Commission is whether any new model will be enacted in time to be considered in relation to the Northland and Hawke's Bay applications.
The three Commissioners, accompanied by a Commission staff member, attended the Local Government New Zealand Conference in Hamilton. The Minister’s announcement about local boards was of particular interest. Commissioners and staff also attended a number of other presentations and workshops of direct relevance to the ongoing work of the Commission.
Basil Morrison and Anne Carter, accompanied by Chief Executive Officer Donald Riezebos and other staff also attended the LGNZ Zone 4 conference in Lower Hutt on 3 July. Basil used his speech to discuss the approach to reorganisation proposals and the processes being followed by the Commission. The speechnotes are available here.
The strong co-operative relationships between local authorities and public service agencies were highlighted after the 6.5 magnitude Cook Strait earthquake on Sunday 21 July. Many local government staff, elected members and associated agencies in the lower North Island and top of the South were kept busy following the earthquake and aftershocks.
The Commission’s operations were also impacted briefly. Our office on The Terrace in Wellington was closed on Monday 22nd while the building was assessed. The road outside the main entrance in Bolton St was littered with broken glass from windows in the landmark Kelvin Chambers building, constructed by Fletchers in the 1920s. Our building, opened in 1986, fared somewhat better. The damage in the office was limited to toppled computer screens and a bookshelf which emptied itself of its contents - intriguingly, only council documents from Auckland were spilled.
The office, which fortuitously shares a floor with the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, reopened on Tuesday 23rd July.
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