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Questions and answers

See Latest: Summary of West Coast Feedback (12 August 2016)

What is the Local Government Commission’s role?

The Commission is an independent statutory body with two main roles. It makes decisions in relation to how local authorities should be structured in response to applications for change. It also determines electoral arrangements for councils where council decisions on these arrangements are appealed to the Commission.

In addition, the Commission has a role in promoting good local government that is efficient, effective and accountable to local communities. It places great emphasis on working collaboratively with communities and councils to come up with local solutions to local government issues. 

Why is the Commission engaging with the West Coast community?

Last year the Local Government Commission received an application asking it to look at local government arrangements on the West Coast, with a view to making changes.

It is important for the Commission to get input from affected communities early in the process. The Commission wants to hear what the West Coast communities’ views are about local government on the West Coast.

For example, the Commission wants to hear what the community likes about the current way their councils are set up and the way services are delivered. It also wants to know whether the community thinks local government on the West Coast could be strengthened.

What changes did the applicants ask for?

The applicants asked for more efficient and cost-effective local government arrangements. They requested a simplified and unified local government system. The applicants believe this change is needed to:

  • unite communities
  • provide an agreed vision to address issues, such as declining populations, economic challenges and the need to maintain infrastructure and services
  • provide greater transparency and collaboration
  • improve community representation and consultation
  • reduce costs
  • sustain rates at an affordable level
  • standardise policies
  • provide administrative efficiencies
  • remove duplication, especially in relation to governance and management.

What else is the Commission doing on the West Coast?

Separate to this public engagement (but at the same time) the Commission is working with the West Coast Mayoral Forum on two regional efficiency initiatives – Resource Management Act planning processes and roading arrangements. These are potentially areas where efficiencies can be made to benefit West Coast residents, ratepayers and businesses.

These initiatives were selected for investigation because they had been identified by the West Coast councils as areas of common interest; and because there is the potential for significant gains to ratepayers from reviewing how these services are delivered. 

The Commission and the West Coast councils are collaborating on this work.

What does local government currently look like on the West Coast?

The West Coast community is currently represented by three district councils: Buller District Council,  Grey District Council, Westland District Council. There is also one regional council: West Coast Regional Council.

The community is currently represented by three district councils: the Buller District Council, the Grey District Council and the Westland District Council. There is also one regional council, the West Coast Regional Council.

The Buller District Council has a mayor and 10 councillors. Buller District also has a community board in Inangahua comprising four elected members and the two councillors for the area. The Grey and Westland District Councils each have a mayor and eight councillors. The West Coast Regional Council has seven councillors, including the chair.

District councils’ responsibilities include:

  • Local water supply, sewerage, stormwater and roading infrastructure (including footpaths)
  • Libraries, public swimming pools, recreation and community centres
  • District emergency management/civil defence
  • Building consents
  • Community development and advocacy
  • Resource consents and planning for land use under the Resource Management Act
  • Regulatory activities like noise control and dog control
  • Environmental health such as food licences.

Regional council responsibilities include:

  • Environmental management such as quality of air and water
  • Flood protection
  • Pest management
  • Land management
  • Transport planning
  • Regional emergency management/civil defence (planning and coordination activities)
  • Regional economic development.

What makes the West Coast unique?

The West Coast (Te Tai Poutini) is unique in many respects.

  • The region is extensive and remote. It traverses a distance of 600 km from Kahurangi Point in the north to Awarua Point in the south. This makes it the fifth largest region, by area, in New Zealand.
  • The region has a small population of just over 32,000, which is projected to grow only very slightly out to 2031. This makes it the smallest region in the country population wise.
  • The region has a very significant conservation estate with 85 per cent of the land legally protected. This is land that is generally non-rateable for local government purposes.