Lobby group seeks merged councils

KASHKA TUNSTALL
Last updated 11:27 14/12/2012

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The Waikato branch of influential property lobby group Property Council New Zealand has renewed its calls for local government amalgamation 10 months out from local body elections. The branch released a policy paper to its 65 members last week presenting a case for amalgamation.

The next elections for city and district councils, regional councils and district health boards are set for October 12 next year.

Amalgamation is a longtime cause for the Waikato group which first addressed the issue in a publication early last year.

The new paper looks at benefits of merging fragmented units of local government into a new authority so the region is not "swallowed up" by Auckland's growth.

The proposed amalgamated Waikato council would mirror Auckland's supercity framework, replacing the Hamilton City Council, the Waikato Regional Council and district councils such as Waikato, Waipa, Waitomo, Otorohanga, Matamata-Piako and South Waikato.

The paper argues for a unitary authority, saying it would result in a stronger governance structure, better spatial and infrastructure planning, improved consenting processes, fewer disputes between authorities, consistency in standards and reduced staff costs.

Waikato branch president Rob Dol said having one set of rules across the region would bring clarity, certainty and consistency.

"If Waikato wants to be attractive to young families, developers and investors, drawing them here for work, creating a stronger population and more money for ageing infrastructure, then we need to think about Waikato as a region, not as a city and a series of districts," he said.

The branch also has a sub-committee dedicated to reviewing the Hamilton City Council's draft district plan.

The sub-committee will make a submission on the plan early in the new year on behalf of the council, weighing in on development of commercial and residential land. kashka.tunstall@waikatotimes.co.nz

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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