Northlanders’ reform views to be sought ahead of 15 April
21 March, 2013
Northlanders’ reform views to be sought ahead of 15 April deadline
A tight 15 April deadline imposed by the Local Government Commission has prompted the Northland Regional Council to throw open to the public a series of initial workshops on possible local government reform.
Council Chairman Craig Brown says the council had always intended to carry out a detailed and relatively lengthy consultation programme over a number of months to see what form Northlanders think local government in the region should take and had promised the community it would do so.
As part of that process, the council had been planning an initial series of workshops with a variety of invited community representatives around the region next week.
These had been intended as an opportunity to outline initial reform information gathered by the council to date, seek feedback and identify any potential gaps. Feedback from those workshops would then have been used to help develop the council’s community consultation programme, including full public meetings, in coming months.
However, Mr Brown says as part of its work processing a bid by the Far North District Council to become a unitary authority in its area, the Local Government Commission had recently asked other councils in the region to put forward alternatives by Monday 15 April.
The commission had subsequently refused the regional council’s request to extend the deadline by a fortnight until the end of April and in the interim, public and media interest in next week’s meetings was growing.
Mr Brown says that has effectively left the regional council with little choice but to throw open next week’s workshops to the wider public in a bid to gather as much feedback as possible and still meet the commission’s 15 April deadline.
The council is planning six meetings over Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week, all of which will be open to the public. (subs: 25, 26 and 27 March).
Two sessions will be held each day with the first, over three hours from 1pm to 4pm, incorporating the initially planned participative workshops with a broad range of invited representatives from ratepayer and other community groups.
A second shorter meeting would be held from 6.30pm to 8pm and take the form of a more general public meeting.
The first events will take place at the regional council’s Water St, Whangarei offices on Monday 25 March, followed by a second day at the Kaikohe RSA on Tuesday 26 March. The last two meetings will be held at the Dargaville Town Hall on Wednesday 27 March.
Mr Brown says the council’s current initial thinking – which he describes as effectively a ‘holding position’ – is that it will likely recommend two options to the commission by 15 April.
Those are that the region would be best served by either a model which had a single Northland council with two tiers of governance or that the status quo remains, however, that position could still change depending on the outcome of next week’s public meetings and others.
“Irrespective – and despite the fact our hand is effectively being forced – my fellow councillors and I believe we would be doing our community a disservice if we did not respond to the commission’s invitation and make some comment by 15 April as requested.”
Mr Brown says what happens after 15 April will then be up to the commission, but irrespective, Northlanders will still get the opportunity to have their say.
“If the commission decides it does want to change the current model of local government in Northland, it will put forward a proposal and invite public submissions.”
“If that happens, the Northland Regional Council will continue to seek input from the public to ensure any subsequent submission it makes on their behalf is as robust – and representative of the wider community’s viewpoints – as possible.”
Mr Brown says information about the reform issue – including a background paper – will be available from the regional council’s website via: www.nrc.govt.nz/LGreform