'One council, one mayor, one voice'

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2013

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Five councils could become one in Hawke's Bay - despite resistance from all but one mayor.

The Local Government Commission revealed yesterday a recommendation to create a single Hawke's Bay Council for the region, encompassing the city, district and regional councils into a unitary authority, in a decision being watched by other areas investigating council mergers.

There would be one council, one mayor and one voice, chairman Basil Morrison said. It would stop rivalry and lack of co-operation between local authorities, which were holding back development in the region, he said.

Combining Napier, Hastings, Wairoa, Central Hawke's Bay and the regional council could save up to $10 million a year, he said.

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.

The recent election results revealed widespread opposition to merging the five councils, with the public voting in three mayors who opposed amalgamation: Napier's Bill Dalton, Wairoa's Craig Little and Central Hawke's Bay's Peter Butler.

"It's a kick in the guts," and the "death of democracy" in central Hawke's Bay and Wairoa with just one representative from each area, Mr Butler said.

Hastings mayor and amalgamation supporter Lawrence Yule was "pretty happy" with the overall proposal but agreed the smaller centres needed better representation. He wanted 16 to 18 councillors on the single authority, with two from Wairoa and central Hawke's Bay.

Mr Dalton was confident the "ridiculous notion" could be defeated. "Thinking people right across Hawke's Bay will rise up and reject this arrogant suggestion," he said. "Regardless of whether the administration centre goes to Napier or Hastings, there will be massive job losses. Surrounding businesses will suffer and I'm sure many will be forced to close their doors."

A referendum can be requested by 10 per cent of electors of one of the affected districts. With fewer than 20 electors in the Rangitikei District, just a couple of people could force a binding referendum.

Without a poll, the commission could produce a final report after hearing submissions. A final plan could then be implemented and an election held in October 2015.

Regional council chairman Fenton Wilson wanted to see more detail about management of natural resources.

OTHER AMALGAMATION PROPOSALS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

GREATER WELLINGTON APPLICATION

The application proposes the eight territorial authorities in the region be combined into a new authority. The authorities are: Kapiti Coast District Council; Porirua City Council; Wellington City Council; Hutt City Council; Upper Hutt City Council; South Wairarapa District Council; Carterton District Council and Masterton District Council.

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The new authority would assume the powers, responsibilities and functions of those authorities and also of the regional council; ie it would be a unitary authority. A mayor would be elected along with 21 councillors on a ward basis, overseeing eight local boards. The eight territorial authorities and the regional council would be abolished.

WAIRARAPA COUNCILS' APPLICATION

This application is for three Wairarapa district councils, Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa, to form a unitary authority. The application proposes the union of the districts and the assumption of the power of a regional council, as well as boundary alterations.

The new local authority would assume the responsibilities and functions currently held by the territorial authorities and Greater Wellington Regional Council. The application also proposes a boundary alteration for a small part of Tararua District, currently in the Wellington region, to be transferred to the Manawatu-Wanganui region.

FAR NORTH DISTRICT COUNCIL APPLICATION

This application is for the Far North District Council to become a unitary authority, having the functions of both a territorial authority and a regional council.

A HAWKE'S BAY COUNCIL . . .

Would replace Napier City, Hastings, Wairoa 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.

Would have nine councillors and sit for four years.

Would be based in Napier with service centres in Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, Waipawa and Waipukurau.

Five community boards with 37 elected members would sit beneath the 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.

Existing council debt and financial arrangements would be ring-fenced for at least six years to the communities which incurred them.

Regional assets would be transferred to council.

WHAT NOW

The public have till March 7 next year to make submissions on the proposal. The Local Government 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 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.

- Fairfax Media

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