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Green light for Hawke’s Bay amalgamation

The Local Government Commission has made decisions on the next steps for three local government reorganisation proposals, giving the thumbs up to amalgamation in the Hawke’s Bay but sending proposals for other single councils in the lower North Island and Northland back to the drawing board.

The commission has issued a final proposal for reorganising Hawke’s Bay’s local government. That would establish a single new council for Hawke’s Bay, called Hawke’s Bay Council, with five local boards sharing decision-making and representing the interests of the region’s varied communities. If implemented, it will replace the Napier City, Wairoa District, Hastings District and Central Hawke’s Bay District, and Hawke’s Bay Regional Councils.

“We believe in Hawke’s Bay there is community support for reorganising local government, that the final proposal will promote good local government, and is in the region’s best interests,’’ said commission chair Basil Morrison. “In the commission’s view, a single Hawke’s Bay Council will enable local government to be delivered in a more effective and efficient manner to address the issues and opportunities the region faces.’’

However, commission chief executive Sandra Preston said it’s up to the people of Hawke’s Bay to determine whether the final proposal goes ahead. Ten percent of electors in any affected area can sign a petition seeking a poll and majority support will be required for the proposal to be implemented.

The commission decided not to proceed with draft proposals for single councils in Northland and Wellington and will return to those communities to seek to develop other options to address the “challenges” those regions face.

Preston said there was little support for the major structural option proposed for Wellington, which would have resulted in Wairarapa and Wellington councils joining forces, but noted there was a widespread mood for some form of change. She said Northland councils had made progress in identifying alternative ways to provide good local government since the draft proposal was released and the commission hoped to work with the community in building on that momentum.

“Our goal will be to assist communities in both regions to reach sufficient consensus on the changes required and the best form of local government,” Preston said. As required under the Local Government Act, if this process results in new options for reform with community support, the commission would then prepare new draft proposals for wider consultation in Wellington and Northland.

This article was first published in the July 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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