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Governance hidden agenda concerns

Last updated 08:02 01/11/2012

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Bay Chronicle

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Red flags are up concerning the Northland Regional Council's representation review.

The working group for the Far North unitary authority proposal and the Whangarei District Council claim that the review is masking a request to the government's local government select committee that will allow an Auckland-style governance model for Northland.

What the Northland Regional Council is proposing with the representation review is a more localised structure.

But critics say what they haven't said in their publicity is that a submission has been made to the parliamentary select committee that is considering the local government reform bill asking for powers to create local boards.

The proposed representation changes include a split of what's now considered the Bay of Islands into Coastal North and Coastal Central.

The Northland Regional Council's representation review prompted hearings in the Far North and in Whangarei last week.

Representatives for the Whangarei District Council and the Far North District Council presented concerns with the process as undertaken by the regional council.

At the representation review hearing in Kaikohe on October 17 mayor Wayne Brown questioned the motives of the review openly. He asked whether the meeting was designed to discuss the representation arrangements review or whether discussing an Auckland style unitary authority for Northland was on the table.

"I will stick with the representation arrangements review until we get an honest, open conversation about the real agenda," he said.

Councillor Warwick Syers from the Whangarei District Council in his oral submission on the same day in Whangarei said: "A cynic might suggest, contrary to your public declarations, this is the start of a reorganisation application." Mr Syers said: "Whangarei District Council considers a replica of the Auckland model for Northland is absolutely inappropriate. Northland only has 160,000 people and needs a provincial, as opposed to a metropolitan, unitary council model."

At the moment there are three constituencies as based on the council boundaries, but the proposed representation changes would see eight possible local boards created.

The proposed areas are split along population lines as: Te Hiku (population 17,675), one representative; Hokianga-Kaikohe (5837), one; Coastal North (15,867), one; Coastal Central (18,581), one; Hikurangi - Bream Head (18,388), one; Whangarei Urban (38,440), two; Coastal South (18,089), one; Kaipara (16,338), one.

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