Ratepayers saddled with the bill in report row

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2013

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Napier ratepayers will be funding all but $500 of a $30,000 anti-amalgamation report after Hawke's Bay Regional Council refused to pay for it.

The only contribution Napier City Council will receive is $500 from Central Hawke's Bay District Council.

Napier chief executive officer Wayne Jack commissioned the report, by Australian local government specialist Brian Dollery, in September.

It was highly critical of an earlier report by management consultant Peter Winder, which pointed to savings if the region's five councils merged.

Mr Jack told the chief executives of Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay district councils and Hawke's Bay Regional Council about the report on September 11, a week after he began in the position.

The chief executive of the pro-amalgamation Hastings District Council was not told. Wairoa Mayor Craig Little and regional council chairman Fenton Wilson said they did not hear about the report until late last month.

Regional council interim chief executive Liz Lambert said she first heard of Napier's intention to write the report in mid-September, but her council was "not consulted on terms of reference/brief or even aware of who [the] authors were".

Mr Wilson and councillors were not informed as it was "a management matter, in my view, not one of governance", Ms Lambert said. She and the other chief executives received a draft of the report on November 7.

The final report was published last Monday and released by Napier City Council the next day, after the Local Government Commission announced its recommendation for council reorganisation.

Ms Lambert said Napier had subsequently approached the council for funding but "HBRC has not paid any money towards the report and does not intend to".

Wairoa District Council chief executive Peter Freeman said he knew the report was under way some months ago, but "I had nothing to do with the terms of reference".

He did not feel it necessary to inform the mayor or councillors. "It wasn't my report to give to anyone. I get reports all the time. I don't tell the mayor and councillors about every one I get."

Wairoa would not be contributing to the report's cost, he said.

Mr Jack said the Dollery report "was always intended to be an information report".

"We have an obligation to inform our community of both sides of the issue. This is one of the biggest decisions they will make."

There was no need to inform Hastings "because they have always made their position clear, and we saw no need to inform them".

He could not comment on what other councils did.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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