Shared services between councils, and not amalgamations, should be the Waikato's top priority, a long-serving mayor says.
The region's mayors met this week to discuss the findings of four separate working parties looking at potential collaboration across councils in planning, roading, water and waste water.
Waikato Mayoral Forum chairman, Matamata-Piako Mayor Hugh Vercoe, said the detailed reports had identified opportunities for efficiency gains, in areas such as planning, and also highlighted differences between councils in areas such as roading.
"When we look at planning, for example, we see layers and overlap between central government, regional and local government, but we lack a strategy or spatial plan for the Waikato.
"This comes at huge cost to councils and businesses. Over the next three years our councils need to review and consult on more than 500 different policies, codes of practice, management plans and bylaws. There are efficiencies to be gained from collaboration among the member councils."
Mr Vercoe said the forum had agreed to hire independent consultants to carry out further studies and would gather again next month.
The meeting follows hearings last week in Hamilton by the local government and environment select committee.
In its submission to the select committee, Waikato Regional Council argued for the retention of the "four well-beings" - environmental, economic, social and cultural - and said regional councils had a distinct role that should be reflected in legislation.
But four regional councillors presented their own submission to the select committee arguing the four well-beings be scratched from the Local Government Act.
The four Rates Control councillors said the introduction of the four well-beings had ushered in a dramatic rates rise.
The four councillors said local government had become unaffordable and stressed "the necessity for sensible mergers and/or amalgamations if government is serious about reining in councils' spending."
But Mr Vercoe said it made sense for councils to focus initially on better ways to deliver their services.
"I'm not getting at the Rates Control team but my view of the world is we are better off looking at the services we deliver and see if there are significant savings if we do things differently."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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