Amalgamation 'won't go away'

Nelson MP Nick Smith has reaffirmed his commitment to a merger of the region’s two councils,  telling Nelson Rotarians last night  that ‘‘the ineffectiveness of the dual council model will only become more obvious with time’’.

He said the challenges of co-ordinating the big decisions for the region on planning, transport, facilities and resources would only get harder.

Hugely growing debt and resistance to ever-increasing rates would increase the pressure for efficiency gains. Reforms in other centres would add to it.

‘‘The issue of a merged council is not going to go away.’’

The amalgamation vote held last April was based on a ‘‘less than optimal’’ model and many people supported a merger but voted ‘‘no’’ because of deficiencies in the details, he said.

‘‘The unlawful campaign by the Tasman Council during the poll also unfairly skewed the result against reform.’’

Any merger under the old law was ‘‘always going to be a big ask’’. The Government had since reformed the process and lowered the bar.

‘‘Some of the proponents for the merger have suggested a new attempt be made this year. I take a more cautious view. This is a local body election year. A new proposal would distract from the important contests for election of our mayors and councillors.’’

Further changes to the Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act were planned this year, making it easier to design a new and imdhproved structure of local councils, and a more careful, considered and consultative approach was more likely to succeed.

He would encourage those seeking amalgamation to let the dust settle ‘‘with a mind to having a fresh look at the issue dhafter this year’s local body elections’’, Dr Smith said.