A push to radically reshape Waikato's local government landscape could be the first big issue confronting newly elected councils next week.
Local government leaders spoken to by the Times said there was growing speculation that a proposal to create a greater Waikato council would be presented to the Local Government Commission on Monday.
Regional council chairman Peter Buckley had heard the proposal was "in the works" but didn't know which group or individual was behind it.
"I've been told that up to two proposals are being worked on. One proposal is advocating widespread amalgamation while the other proposal favours a breakaway unitary body on the Coromandel," Mr Buckley said.
"I think the timing is disappointing. My view is councils should explore cost savings through shared services and co-operation before looking at council amalgamations."
Property Council New Zealand's Waikato branch has been a vocal advocate for council reform, saying the current setup of 11 territorial authorities and one regional council was not properly serving the Waikato.
The commercial property trade group favours a greater Waikato council and local boards.
Property Council's Waikato amalgamation subcommittee chairman Thomas Gibbons said the group was still considering its next move but would not be making a submission to the Local Government Commission next week.
"As a group, the thing we're focused on is getting a bit of attention to the issue and making sure it's not something which is decided by councils or council staff by themselves," he said.
The Local Government Commission has received reorganisation proposals for Northland, Hawke's Bay and Wellington-Wairarapa. The proposals are assessed according to set criteria, including whether it had demonstrated community support for change.
Regional council chief executive Bob Laing said the council would respond to any application to the Local Government Commission.
"It would be my expectation that if we do see a proposal being lodged next week, then we would be briefing our council at the earliest opportunity and working with councillors on an agreed set of principles upon which to base a submission," Mr Laing said.
"Then, if an proposal does proceed, there's a great deal of work ahead. We need to involve our communities and make sure people get the facts and sound analysis of the pros and cons of the options."
Waikato Mayoral Forum chairman Matamata-Piako Mayor Hugh Vercoe said he doubted if the Local Government Commission had the capacity to deal with any Waikato proposal straight away due to its workload.
The Government did not appear to have a "big taste" for pushing through council amalgamations ahead of the 2014 national elections.
"The mayoral forum's position, and it's a view totally supported by me as an individual mayor, is let's look at where councils can collaborate and share services first of all."
Regional council deputy chairman Simon Friar said Thames Coromandel District Mayor Glenn Leach had made no secret of his desire to break away from the regional council.
"It's easy to get people to sign a petition when you tell them they can save money by getting rid of the regional council but a lot of people don't understand the implications of the different local government models," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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