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Why a Far North unitary authority makes sense

WAYNE BROWN
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2013

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OPINION: The biggest challenges facing the Far North are creating jobs and maximising the economic activity that our region's opportunities offer.

We are blessed with masses of timber yet we export logs; large dairy production all refined outside our district; tourism drawcards marketed with our money but with no input from us, and other fledgling industries such as mining and aquaculture show promise but are not under local control.

Our harbours are degraded with storm erosion and high phosphate and nitrate levels yet the organisation responsible for managing them is focused on stopping boaties cleaning their hulls and producing regional policy statements that few read, fewer understand but will adversely affect anyone living within 10km of the sea, which is all of us.

This same organisation is using our money to plan for new processing industries for our produce but wants to site them at Ruakaka, thus denying us the new jobs.

That organisation is the Northland Regional Council, based in and focused on Whangarei, and all that the Far North district wants to do is govern our area ourselves and have a direct link to central government.

Newspaper coverage has highlighted the views of letter writers and Vision Kerikeri, who collectively employ nobody and do not understand that the proposed changes to form a unitary authority for the Far North are not aimed at them, but are aimed at business and ratepayer groups who do employ people and also at the young people who desperately need those jobs.

Just so you know that this is the result of full council participation over a very long period, it is worth remembering that the move to form our own unitary authority has been outlined in the last three annual plans and the last two long-term plans of the Far North District Council.

It has also been the subject of many district-wide public meetings and meetings with iwi groups to ensure that those who were interested were heard before we lodged our application.

We have letters of support from the present mayors of Whangarei and Kaipara, Whangarei District deputy mayor and the former mayor, and all of our community board chairpersons.

We also have them from a former North Port chairperson, a regional councillor, Northland Rugby Union, Northland Hockey, and a number of individual business leaders who back the letters of support that we have from business associations in Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Kaikohe, Paihia and Opua plus Doubtless Bay Promotions.

Resident and ratepayer groups in Awanui, Tokerau, Whatuwhiwhi, Opononi and Ompaere have all sent letters supporting this change.

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Farmers of New Zealand not only support this move but are publicly campaigning for support for the Dargaville area to join in.

Maori groups, a large and sometimes ignored group who are on the move economically with settlements and invigorated runanga management, have sent letters of support from Ngapuhi, Ngatahine, te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Ngati Kuta and the Tai Tokerau iwi leaders forum. All these groups cannot be ignored and are actively engaged in our economy, so dismiss the moaning of a few disaffected people and find out why this move has such widespread support to simplify and hasten local government up here, plus gain access to our share of the regional assets locked up by the Northland Regional Council for the benefit of Whangarei only.

We are different, being rural with no large dominating town. Northland's police and fire services run two parallel organisations covering similar areas to that of our proposed unitary authority and one based around Whangarei.

We have not one, but two electorates up here - one covering the urban Whangarei area and our one, mostly consisting of the Far North plus our rural cousins at Dargaville and debt-ridden Mangawhai.

The proposed changes are a golden opportunity for our people that must not be lost through ignorance or apathy.

- Wayne Brown

and Mate Radich

- Northland

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