Panel: Merge Hawke's Bay councils

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 12:00 26/11/2013
Lawrence Yule
FAIRFAX NZ
Pro amalgamation: Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule.

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One council, one mayor and one voice is the best way forward for Hawke's Bay, according to the Local Government Commission.

Merging the region's five councils into a single authority is the Commission's preferred option for governing Hawke's Bay, it announced today.

Creating one council could save the region up to $10 million a year, the proposal says.

A new Hawke's Bay Council would replace Napier City, Wairoa, Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay District Councils along with the Hawke's Bay Regional Council. It would also include a small area of Rangitikei District.

Five community boards with 37 elected members would sit beneath the council which would be made up of a mayor and nine councillors from five wards.

It means the recently elected local body politicians could have their three-year term cut short. However the latest election results show there was widespread opposition to merging the region's five councils with the public voting in three mayors opposed to amalgamation: Napier's mayor Bill Dalton, Craig Little in Wairoa and Peter Butler in Central Hawke's Bay.

Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule is an advocate for amalgamation.

Napier and Wairoa councils were among 19 organisations and individuals to submit alternative proposals to the Commission.

The Commission's draft proposal essentially backs the original submission put forward by lobby group A Better Hawke's Bay (ABHB).

Headquarters would be in Napier with service centres in Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, Waipawa, and Waipukurau.

Existing council debt and financial arrangements would be ring-fenced for at least six years to the communities which incurred them. While regional assets would be transferred to Hawke's Bay Council.A Maori board would be created to ensure local iwi were represented, while the existing Maori committee that helps manage natural resources would be retained.

Commission chair Basil Morrison said a single council was the best option for dealing with projected population movement and lifting the potential of the region.

"We heard concerns that the region's development was being held back by rivalry and lack of co-operation between local authorities.''

Morrison said the establishment of community boards should help preserve the ''special identities'' of established communities.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW

The public have till March 7 2014 to make submissions on the proposal.

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The Commission intends to 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 of the affected districts.

If the referendum supports the proposal a reorganisation scheme is prepared and implemented by Order in Council.

An election could be held for the Hawke's Bay Council in October 2015. Elected members would sit for four years.

REACTION

"In my view it is just a farce. But we can defeat this ridiculous notion that we are one community of interest from Wairoa to central Hawke's Bay. Thinking people right across Hawke's Bay will rise up and reject this arrogant suggestion." - Napier Mayor Bill Dalton.

"I'm disgusted. One representative for Wairoa and central Hawke's Bay, it's a kick in the guts. We used to be one Hawke's Bay. If any one person is tearing Hawke's Bay apart at this time it's Lawrence Yule." - Central Hawke's Bay mayor Peter Butler 

"I'm pretty happy but the representation is wrong. We'll never accept nine councillors. It should be 16 or 18 and Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay need two each. I promoted a concept of a different type of government. I'm trying to be forward looking and looking at the challenges we face as a region and in my view the current structure is not serving us as well as it should. I don't consider that tearing the region apart. I haven't come to my job to eat my lunch." - Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule

''I totally oppose it - we are forgotten about." Wairoa Mayor Craig Little.

"This draft proposal is an exciting opportunity to create a united region and a great start towards bringing Hawke's Bay a regional vision, regional leadership and a regional plan, allowing us all to work together." A Better Hawke's Bay chairman Rebecca Turner.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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