Leach divorces Waikato

Fractured relations between Thames-Coromandel residents and the Waikato Regional Council are fuelling calls for the peninsula to break away from the Waikato region.

Thames-Coromandel Mayor Glenn Leach said his district would be better served under a unitary body.

Thames resident Don Snowden has lived in the area for 50 years and believes a break away from the regional council is the way to go.

"Unless TCDC can prove it's not the right thing to do, then I am for pulling away. It would be good to stop paying for Taupo and the velodrome. The regional council rate keeps going up and up. People in Thames can't afford these growing rates," Snowden said.

Leach said his district could not afford to have a "third tier of bureaucracy" with the regional council.

"We have had problems with the regional council in the past. Our area is pretty consolidated in that it doesn't have a lot of respect for a regional council based in Hamilton."

Leach said the Waikato Mayoral Forum's intentions to develop a regional spatial plan and set up work streams exploring greater collaboration and savings was too little too late.

"I tried to get discussion about reorganisation at the Mayoral Forum over the last 18 months, before we even started down the road of collaboration. I found the Mayoral Forum while Hugh Vercoe was chairing did not want to talk about reorganisation. I've got nothing to offer the Mayoral Forum."

Waikato District Mayor and chairman of the Waikato Mayoral Forum Allan Sanson said mayoral forum members respected each other's views on council reform but believed amalgamation should be the last step on the ladder.

"Glenn has got his views but all I'll say is going forward we need to understand what the problems are in the Waikato. A certain sector tends to think there is a problem, I struggle to find the problem myself."

Sanson said Leach would outline his views on local government reform at next month's forum meeting.

The Waikato branch of the Property Council had also been invited to present their proposal on council amalgamation.

The property council is developing a submission to the Local Government Commission proposing the amalgamation of four Waikato councils with parts of three other districts to create a unitary council.

To date, forum members have shown little appetite for amalgamation, instead looking for efficiency gains and cost savings through shared services and streamlined planning.

Since its inception 2 years ago, the forum has embarked on developing a regional spatial plan and set up work streams exploring greater collaboration and savings in the delivery of water services and roading, as well as better alignment in council policies and bylaws.

Half a billion dollars was spent in the Waikato on roading maintenance each year "so a one per cent saving is a hell of a lot of money", Sanson said.

Waikato Times