Reform ball now in Local Govt Commission’s court; NRC

13 Mar 2014

The Northland Regional Council has today told the Local Government Commission it can’t support its draft proposal for a major revamp of local government in the region and has asked it to do more work, then issue a fresh draft.

Bill Shepherd making a submission to the Local Government Commission in Whangarei.Northland Regional Council chairman Bill Shepherd, left, and CEO Malcolm Nicolson deliver the council's submission to the Local Government Commission.

Council chairman Bill Shepherd – who spoke to the council's submission during LGC hearings in Whangarei today – says the heart of its opposition to the LGC's current recommendation is the commission's heavy reliance on 'community boards'.

Councillor Shepherd says the council believes much stronger 'local boards' with their own powers and budgets are needed.

"Proposed changes to the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill No 3 will allow for local boards in places like Northland and we think the commission should wait until that law change then issue a fresh draft reorganisation proposal."

In a similar vein, the council felt any final proposal by the LGC should include a wider range of options for Maori representation/decision-making. It also wanted the commission to provide more information across a number of other areas.

Councillor Shepherd says the regional council's current stance on the reform issue could be summarised in just five points, which he had left behind for the commission:

The Northland Regional Council supports the very best outcome for local government representation in Northland.

It requests that the Final Proposal is delayed until the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill No 3 is enacted.

It supports local decision-making for local issues and agrees funding must sit closest to that local decision-making.

It agrees there are key issues faced in Northland that will benefit from a Northland-wide approach e.g. roading, water, Civil Defence, sewage, economic development.

It encourages the Local Government Commission to take more ownership of the process.

He says anyone interested in reading the council's full submission – which covers many areas including its position on debt, claimed costs savings, service delivery, ward boundaries and where any new council should be based – could view it online at www.nrc.govt.nz/LGreform

"From here on, the ball is very much in the Local Government Commission's court in terms of the next steps in the process – whatever those may be."

Councillor Shepherd says the council would now wait along with the other 1800-plus submitters on the commission's draft proposal, until the commission made a decision on what should happen next