New bid to merge councils possible

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 05/12/2012

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Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio has not ruled out another bid at leading the charge for council reorganisation, under new rules that will smooth the pathway for amalgamation.

The private attempt Mr Miccio initiated in the leadup to his 2010 mayoral campaign failed this year, when Tasman district voted against a union with Nelson city, which supported amalgamation.

"I am reviewing now the changes that have been made to the original reforms with regards to the reorganisation procedures, and will then make a decision whether I would lead such a process again in the near future," Mr Miccio said.

The Nelson mayor was a city councillor at the time he petitioned for a merger of the two councils. After a lengthy process that initially required a petition signed by 10 per cent of electors in Nelson and Tasman to initiate a proposal, Nelson city eventually voted in favour of amalgamation, but Tasman turned it down.

Under the new rules, in order to be successful a poll would require majority support over the area of the proposed new council, and not of every existing district or city.

Mr Miccio said he still held the view that amalgamation was needed and was in the best interests of Tasman and Nelson.

He declined to say if he planned to stand for mayor again in next year's election, despite telling the latest issue of Wild Tomato magazine he "needs another mayoral term to achieve his objectives for Nelson". He told the Nelson Mail yesterday that it was too early to make any decision about a future term or terms.

Mr Miccio said that at this stage, his focus was on "doing the best to complete and achieve the goals set out for the current term".

City councillor Ian Barker said any drive for council reorganisation should come from the community and not a politician, and the reforms had made it easier for the community to initiate change.

"Personally, I think Aldo would be very unwise to try again," Mr Barker said.

He said he welcomed various aspects of the reforms, including creating a mechanism for councils to benchmark spending and performance, which he felt was long overdue. "They will refocus councils' core activities, and will also give ratepayers a chance to gauge and judge for themselves how the council is performing against others."

Local Government Minister David Carter said the bill refocused the purpose of local government, introduced financial prudence requirements for local authorities, strengthened council governance provisions, and streamlined council reorganisation procedures.

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Mr Carter said the legislation completed the first phase of the Government's Better Local Government reforms, which would focus local authorities on operating more efficiently and effectively.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne has been critical of the reforms, saying he believes they will hamper growth. He said the Government had introduced the legislation under the guise of councils straying from their core functions and their inability as a result to provide for economic growth, at a growing cost.

NEW RULES

Recently adopted local government reforms will streamline the process for reorganisation of councils.

The new process will be:

1. The community or council prepares an initiative and submits it to the Local Government Commission.

2. The commission assesses the initiative against statutory criteria and either rejects it, refers it back for further work, or proceeds to develop the initiative into a draft proposal.

3. The commission approves and publishes a draft proposal for consultation, and hears submissions on it.

4. The commission determines whether the proposal has sufficient public support, and if so, proceeds to a final proposal.

5. If a petition signed by at least 10 per cent of the affected electors of the proposed new council requests a poll, this will be undertaken and determined by a simple majority over the area of the proposed new council.

6. The commission prepares a final reorganisation scheme that is implemented by an Order in Council.

- The Nelson Mail

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