The Northland Regional Council says now is the time to consult with the public to determine what the community wants in terms of government restructuring.
The regional council is planning a major fact-finding exercise next year to see what form Northlanders think local government in the region should take - and says it will reserve its judgement until those views are known.
Regional council's general manager planning and policy Kathryn Ross says with the passing in early December of the first of a series of planned changes to the Local Government Act: "It is time to ensure that any proposals for change are community driven."
She says while there had been calls in 2012 from some - including the Far North District Council - for reform, the regional council had been reluctant to enter the debate until the Local Government Act changes had occurred.
Ms Ross says during previous debates on potential reform in Northland the regional council had advocated positions and favoured a "whole of Northland" approach but it presently "does not have a predetermined outcome in mind".
"The council now wants to engage with individuals and communities of interest within the region to identify an optimal model of local governance for Northland that would have community support," she says.
Not all councillors agreed - in December a majority voted for a proposed community engagement model.
It includes citizens' panels, surveys, an open door approach, workshops and other forms of direct public involvement.
The initial estimated $60,000 to $100,000 cost of the work had not been budgeted for, but firmed-up costings - and how they could be paid for - would be addressed in a more detailed engagement plan to be presented to the council in February.
Ms Ross says staff had recommended not beginning the consultation process in earnest until February to allow the preparation of background and other material required. It would also mean most Northland residents and ratepayers would be back from their holidays.
"We need to take local government back to our local communities," regional council chairman Craig Brown says. "Any decisions on how it should be should come from them; this is meant to be about community involvement and community governance."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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