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Hawke’s Bay–opportunity to lift whole region’s performance

[Draft_Proposal_Hawkes_Bay_26_Nov_2013.pdf]

LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMISSION

MANA KĀWANATANGA Ā ROHE

Media Release

EMBARGOED 12 NOON, TUESDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2013

Hawke’s Bay–opportunity to lift whole region’s performance

A proposal designed to lift the performance of Hawke’s Bay by providing strong leadership through integrated local government is now open to public submission.

The Local Government Commission has released its draft proposal, after considering applications from the community and from local authorities and conducting wide consultation.

The Commission is proposing a ‘whole of Hawke’s Bay’ approach involving one council supported by a layer of boards which would have the power to represent established communities of the region.

The draft proposal is:

• One council and one mayor who could speak with one voice for Hawke’s Bay.

• A layer of boards empowered to represent distinct local communities.

• The new Hawke’s Bay Council would replace Wairoa District Council, Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Central Hawke’s Bay District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. It would also include a small area of Rangitikei District.

• Nine councillors would be elected from five wards to ensure region-wide representation. The mayor would be elected at large by all Hawke’s Bay voters.

• The Council would have five community boards with 37 elected members. The wards and community boards would share the same boundaries. Their proposed names are Wairoa, Ngaruroro, Napier, Hastings and Central Hawke’s Bay.

• The views of the large Māori population would be heard through a standing council committee (Māori Board) comprising representatives nominated by local iwi and elected members of council. The existing Māori committee dealing with management of natural resources would be retained.

• Hawke’s Bay Council administrative headquarters is initially proposed to be in Napier. There would be service centres in Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, Waipawa and Waipukurau.

• Existing council debt and financial arrangements would be ring-fenced for at least six years to the communities which incurred them or benefit from them. Current regional assets would be transferred to Hawke’s Bay Council.

• Hawke’s Bay Council would be a unitary authority, combining the functions of city, district and regional councils. It would have 47 elected members: one for every 3,286 people (excluding the mayor). Under current arrangements there are 57 elected members: one for every 2,852 people.

The Chair of the Local Government Commission, Basil Morrison, said Hawke’s Bay local authorities face challenges and opportunities which are best addressed through reorganisation of council structures.

“A single council for Hawke’s Bay gives the entire region the best option for dealing with future trends in population movement and economic development,” Mr Morrison said.

“We made six visits to Hawke’s Bay after receiving the original application from A Better Hawke’s Bay Trust. The most common theme raised by affected and interested groups was how to lift the potential of the whole region.”

“We heard concerns that the region’s development was being held back by rivalry and lack of co-operation between local authorities. These concerns included Hawke’s Bay’s inability to speak with one voice or to function as a coherent whole.

“The region has two distinct but closely related halves: the rural hinterland of Wairoa, rural Hastings and Central Hawke’s Bay; and the urbanised centres of Napier and Hastings. Realising the full benefit for the region requires recognition that these halves are interdependent.

“The rural economies are and will remain very important for the well-being of the whole region. However they require good quality infrastructure services to reach their full potential. These include transportation facilities such as the port which is located in Napier but serves the whole region.

“Another common theme from the alternative applications was the need to preserve the special identities of established communities. We have done that with the region-wide tier of community boards, which would be empowered to make decisions on matters that directly affect those local communities,” Mr Morrison said.

Public Submissions

The Local Government Commission (LGC) is calling for public submissions on the draft proposal. The deadline for submissions is 7 March 2014. The Commission intends to hold public hearings in Hawke’s Bay and submitters may appear in person.

The draft proposal document can be found on the LGC website and will also be supplied to local councils who will be encouraged to make copies available for inspection in council offices and public libraries. Digital copies can be obtained on request from info@lgc.govt.nz. Guidelines for making a public submission are on page 53 of the proposal. Further background to the process can be found at the LGC website: www.lgc.govt.nz .

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Draft_Proposal_Hawkes_Bay_26_Nov_2013.pdf

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Note for editors

The Local Government Commission is an independent body which makes decisions on local authority electoral matters and applications to change boundaries, functions and areas of local authorities. The Commissioners are appointed by the Minister of Local Government. The legislation they operate under, Schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 2002, can be accessed here.

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMISSION

MANA KĀWANATANGA Ā ROHE

Hawke’s Bay Reorganisation

Questions and Answers

EMBARGOED 12.00 NOON TUESDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2013

1. What’s the background to this?

A group of Hawke’s Bay people and organisations, represented by ‘A Better Hawke’s Bay Trust’, applied for existing councils to be reorganised into a more regionally-focussed structure.

The Local Government Commission (LGC) accepted the application and called for alternative ideas. Nineteen responses were received, proposing a variety of changes.

The LGC identified nine possible options, including keeping the current councils in place. It concluded that a single Hawke’s Bay Council is the best option.

2. Can I still access council services in the same place I always have?

Yes. The new council will keep service centres in five towns: Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, Waipawa and Waipukurau. All existing services provided in those centres must be continued.

It may also establish new service centres. There are no proposals for cuts to services or functions.

3. Will my community keep its special identity?

Yes. The identities of established communities are preserved through a number of safeguards.

First, the new council would have a ward system to ensure it can speak with a region-wide voice and is not dominated by councillors from one area.

Secondly, there would be a network of five community boards with the power to make decisions on local services and functions.

Thirdly, the community boards would be subdivided for elections to ensure a fair distribution of members from throughout that area.

Finally, the Mayor would be elected at large and would be expected to represent the whole Hawke’s Bay region.

Reorganisations elsewhere do not support the argument that an established community loses its identity. Examples of this are the former boroughs of Taradale and Havelock North.

The ongoing viability of local communities is more at risk from economic decline than from changes to council structures.

4. Will I be further away from my elected representatives if Council HQ is in Napier?

Not necessarily. Although the Council administrative headquarters is initially proposed to be in Napier, its councillors would come from throughout the region. The council could rotate its regular meetings throughout the region if it chose.

If the Transition Board believes there is a more appropriate location than Napier for the headquarters, it can make recommendations to the incoming council.

The community boards would focus on their local areas and be expected to reflect their community’s priorities and preferences. Community boards advocate for their community and are required to consult and communicate with their community.

There would be 47 elected representatives in Hawke’s Bay local government, compared to 57 under the current five councils.

5. What’s the difference between a community board and a local board?

Community boards are a link between the council and the community. They have input into some council decisions and can be delegated wide powers of decision-making and spending for local services or functions.

A community board cannot levy rates, make bylaws, borrow money, buy and sell assets or hire and fire staff. A community board can be dis-established by the council through the regular cycle of representation reviews.

In contrast, a local board has a co-governance role with the council and shares the same legislative protection as that council. A local board can only be dis-established as part of a wider reorganisation scheme by the Local Government Commission.

Local boards share decision-making with the council for all matters that are non-regulatory. They have more control over their own budgets and funding.

At the moment local boards are only an option for large areas with a population of 400,000-plus. There is currently legislation before Parliament that would remove this population threshold but until that happens local boards are not options for Hawke’s Bay.

6. What will happen to my rates?

Targetted rates will be used to ring-fence any current debt to the area where it was incurred.

The LGC proposal makes no recommendation for the level of rates. Rating decisions are made by elected members of council.

Hawke’s Bay Council will move to an integrated rating system in 2018 based on the land value of property i.e. unimproved value.

7. How will the debt and assets of the present councils be managed?

Targetted rates will ensure that debt is ring-fenced to the community where it was incurred.

Regional assets and services, such as the port and airport and tourism promotion, would be retained for the benefit of the whole region.

8. Will there be costs or savings from moving to one council?

There are potential savings of approximately $5 million to $10 million per year from moving to one council. These need to be balanced against the one-off costs of transition.

In addition, there will be efficiencies from simplified planning processes and removal of duplicated effort. This will create productivity improvements for businesses and streamlined systems for households.

9. If this is adopted when will the new Council take office?

The process from here involves a period of public submissions and hearings.

The Commission will analyse submissions and decide whether to issue a final proposal.

People in Hawke’s Bay could force a vote (poll) on the final proposal if they gather enough signatures on a petition.

If a final proposal is adopted a transition body is set up to ensure change goes smoothly.

The first council elections would be held in October 2015. The new council’s first term would last four years, till it returned to the election cycle of other local authorities in October 2019.

10. Is this identical to the Auckland super-city?

No. The Auckland Council amalgamation was driven by central government. This proposal originated in Hawke’s Bay.

The model of local government proposed for Hawke’s Bay is closer to the unitary authorities that operate in Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough and Gisborne.

11. Does this set a precedent for other councils around New Zealand?

No. Each proposal is examined on its own merits or otherwise.

12. How do I make a submission?

The draft proposal and other supporting documents are on the Commission website www.lgc.govt.nz . The website also has guidelines for how to make a submission.

The deadline for submissions is 7 March 2014.

Submissions can be emailed to info@lgc.govt.nz; or posted to: Local Government Commission, PO Box 5362, Wellington 6145; or faxed to 04 494 0501.

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