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Northland local government – submissions close

Northland local government – submissions close

Northland people’s suggestions for the preferred shape of their local authorities are now being analysed by the Local Government Commission, after the close of submissions.

The Commission received approximately 1850 submissions on its draft proposal for reorganisation, released in November 2013. Public hearings in Northland will get underway in March for submitters who asked to be heard.

“The public submission and hearing process is a useful way to hear people’s ideas on the structure of local government in Northland” said the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, Donald Riezebos.

“If there are better ideas for local government arrangements we want to hear about them. We are particularly interested in views on the option of community boards versus local boards and our draft proposal explicitly sought feedback on this point,” Mr Riezebos said.

The draft proposal includes a layer of seven community boards with 42 elected members. The boards are designed to protect the identities of small communities. Local boards, which have a greater degree of authority than community boards, are also an option for Northland depending on the passage of legislation currently before Parliament.

“It is important to emphasise the proposed seven boards with 42 elected members are an integral part of the new structure, which has perhaps not been recognised in all the public debate. The boards would work with the proposed Northland Council, providing strong regional representation and protecting local identity,” Mr Riezebos said.

The Commission will travel to Northland for public hearings spread throughout the region.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

1. Is there a preliminary breakdown of the submissions?

An initial assessment shows submissions from people in the Whangarei District Council area dominate the numbers in the final tally.

All local authorities except Far North District Council made a submission.

There were 165 submissions in favour of all or part of the proposal, or neutral on it. The remaining 1685 submissions, mostly from the Whangarei District, were opposed.

The Commission encountered a number of cases where a single person made multiple submissions, or where the person named as the author subsequently complained their identity had been used without consent. The Commission believes the figure of 1850 is a fair reflection of the number of people or organisations who sent a submission.

The largest sources of submissions are as follows:

Whangarei 915
Kamo 148
Kaitaia 102
Kerikeri 90
Kaikohe 64
Russell 77
Dargaville 59
Paihia 44
Waipu 41
Hikurangi 36
Ruakaka 28
Kohukohu 28
Mangawhai 19
Rawene 17
Kaiwaka 17

Issues can be grouped under nine main themes:

• The scale and geographical variation of the proposed district/region may be too large
• The potential for lessened local input and access to councillors
• Communities of interest and the difference between rural and urban concerns
• Maori involvement in new structure – either not enough recognition or too much special treatment
• Future levels of service – how much cross-subsidisation would be needed and would Whangarei end up paying for poor areas
• Future debt and debt management options – some councils may have deferred maintenance that will lead to debts in future, Whangarei shouldn’t pay the debts of others
• Rates before and after - should rates be based on land value or capital value, low income people in Whangarei are worried about rates going up to pay for other areas
• The powers of community boards – how do community boards compare to local boards and district councils, how much responsibility and funding can they oversee
• The process – timing, consultation, questions about the role of the Commission, whether there was enough time to make submissions.

2. What is the difference between a community board and a local board?

A local board shares governance with the mayor and councillors of a local authority. Local boards are in charge of non-regulatory matters, i.e. they cannot set rates or issue resource consents and building consents.
Local boards administer a budget for their area. They oversee community assets such as libraries, parks, halls and other facilities. They develop and propose bylaws and a triennial plan for their area.
Local boards currently exist only at Auckland Council. They are also available for a large urban unitary authority with a population of more than 400,000. The Local Government Amendment Bill introduced in 2013 would enable local boards to be established more widely (without the population threshold).
Local boards cannot be abolished by the territorial authority. They can only be altered by a local government reorganisation scheme, or varied by agreement between the governing body and the board.

A community board is a group of people which advocates and represents a community in its dealings with a district or city council. It has powers and functions delegated to it by the council. It has input into some council decisions.
Community boards are a link between the council and the community. Community boards can be established at any time and may be abolished as part of a council’s regular representation review carried out before local authority elections. More than 100 community boards operate in urban and rural areas of territorial authorities. They were created by the local government reforms in 1989.
A community board cannot levy rates, make bylaws, buy property, borrow money, sell assets or hire or fire staff. A community board can make recommendations and submissions on issues such as speed limits and other traffic and roading issues in its area; it can manage community halls and reserves and sports grounds; and help co-ordinate civil defence preparation.

3. What are the next steps?

The Commission will travel to Northland next week to begin public hearings involving those people who asked to be heard. Approximately 320 people asked to speak to their submissions, including 180 people in Whangarei.

The Commission anticipates holding hearings as follows:

5 March – Far North District Council Chambers, Kaikohe
6 March - Te Ahu Centre, Kaitaia
7 March - Turner Centre, Kerikeri
13-14 March - Whangarei District Council Chambers
18 March - Kaipara District Council offices, Dargaville

Hearings will also be held in Russell/Paihia at a date to be confirmed.

4. What happens at the public hearings?

Individuals are allocated 10 minutes which includes time for the Commission to ask any questions. As a general guide submitters should speak to their submission and then allow time for any questions or clarification.
The Commissioners will have the submission in front of them so submitters do not need to read it aloud and should instead use the opportunity to elaborate on any points.
The Commission can ask questions of any of the submitters at the hearing, but one submitter cannot cross-examine another.
A person who wishes to present additional papers to the Commission is requested to provide five copies of those papers. Any such papers must be in support of the original submission.
Submitters are requested to be at the hearing venue at least 15 minutes prior to their allocated speaking time. They will be called to speak in the order on a hearings schedule. However, the Chair of the Commission may exercise discretion depending on circumstances on the day.

The process after hearings:

The Commission may carry out other investigations and inquiries so that it has enough information on which to make a decision.

The Commission has four options:

• issue the draft proposal as a final proposal
• modify the draft proposal and issue it as a final proposal
• issue a new draft proposal based on a different preferred option
• decide not to issue a final proposal at all.

If it issues a final proposal, residents can seek a poll (vote) if more than ten percent of eligible voters in a council area sign a petition. The poll would be held over the entire region.
If a proposal is supported by a poll or there is no poll, a reorganisation scheme is prepared and implemented by the Minister of Local Government through an Order in Council (no legislation is required).

ENDS

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