Some Napier city councillors have questioned the wisdom of consulting their community over council amalgamation when the council itself has already decided it will be making a submission opposing the move.
At yesterday's final council meeting of the year, Napier Mayor Bill Dalton spelled out the reasons the council believed amalgamation of the region's five councils was not the right way forward.
He stressed Napier needed to retain its "focus", not its "identity", and amalgamation, as proposed by the Local Government Commission, "has never achieved the desired outcomes anywhere it has been suggested".
Mr Dalton said the council needed to "lead the debate and be able to offer answers to the questions our residents have".
He recommended the council prepare a submission opposing the commission's draft proposal and then undertake "significant community consultation" on the issues and implications of the proposal.
However, Councillor Roy Sye felt the submission would predetermine the outcome of any consultation. "Is it our role to be a lobby group?
Maybe it's important to have a balanced view with the pros and cons for our residents because they're the ones who are voting," Mr Sye said.
"There's a big group in Napier opposed to amalgamation, there's a group in support of amalgamation and there's a huge group who don't really care."
Graeme Taylor and Mark Herbert agreed there was an element of predetermination.
Mr Dalton said: "The community will make the decision they want to but we believe we have a responsibility to have them as well informed as possible.
"It's not a predetermination."
The council's submission would be "worked up" at the same time as consultation was undertaken. Consultation would take place after a series of "workshops" on the issue.
Mr Dalton agreed to change the recommendation's wording at Mr Sye's suggestion, by replacing "consultation" with "engagement".
The commission revealed last month its recommendation to create a unitary authority to replace the Napier City Council, district councils in Hastings, Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay, and the Hawke's Bay Regional Council.
Submissions on the proposal can be made till March 7 next year.
The commission will hold public hearings in Hawke's Bay and submitters may appear in person. A final proposal could then be issued.
A referendum can be requested by 10 per cent of electors of one affected district.
If the referendum supports the proposal, a reorganisation scheme is implemented by an Order in Council.
An election could be held for the Hawke's Bay council in October 2015.
- The Dominion Post
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