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Hawke’s Bay local government – submissions on change

9 April 2014

Hawke’s Bay local government – submissions on change

A range of ideas for the preferred shape of local government in Hawke’s Bay has emerged from the public submission process run by the Local Government Commission.

The Commission has been analysing submissions since the close-off date in March.

The process began in February 2013 after the Commission received an application from A Better Hawke’s Bay Trust seeking reorganisation of the five councils in the region. The Commission undertook an extensive period of consultation involving six visits to Hawke’s Bay and more than forty meetings with affected groups and the public. It also commissioned analysis and research from economists and local government specialists.

In November 2013 the Commission released a draft proposal for reform and called for feedback. It received 732 submissions. The numbers can be broken down as follows:
• Almost half the submissions (348) were pro forma documents which said the Commission’s proposal was not the best option for Napier, but gave no further explanation.
• One submission was a petition signed by 107 Napier residents who support the Commission’s proposal.
• 123 submissions support the proposal or were neutral; 609 submissions were either opposed or said it was not the best option. The petition signed by 107 people is counted as one submission in this tally.
• 517 identified Napier City Council as their local council;
• 80 identified Hastings District Council as their local council;
• 50 identified Central Hawke’s Bay District Council as their local council;
• 41 identified Wairoa District Council as their local council;
• Smaller numbers identified other councils, including Taupo and Rangitikei District Councils.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, Donald Riezebos, said a number of common themes arose in submissions. Ideas and questions were raised about the following issues:
1. The cross subsidisation between areas and levels and methods of assistance to particular areas.
2. Proposals relating to the ring-fencing of debt, regional assets and funds, including the port dividend.
3. Arguments for and against the importance of regional leadership and ‘one voice’ for Hawke’s Bay.
4. The need for comprehensive and integrated regional planning for functions like transport. The importance of regional economic development and elimination of duplication of functions and barriers to growth.
5. The effect of the proposal on employment and local businesses where local councils have a significant role in employing local people.
6. Possible alternative reorganisation options including shared services and greater collaboration between councils.
7. The distinctiveness of communities of interest, the importance of local autonomy and the perceived risks of centralisation.
8. The level of representation for council and boards, common membership of council and boards, the role and powers of community boards or local boards.
9. Provisions relating to service centres. This included questions about the services to be provided, the location of council headquarters, the timing and responsibility for this decision and the option of retaining facilities in both Napier and Hastings.
10. The size of area proposed for one council, the ward arrangements, the perceived remoteness of Wairoa. There were also suggestions about the role of technology to address issues of distance and remoteness.
11. The importance of the role of the current regional council, particularly in natural resource management, and possible alternative arrangements for regional functions.
12. Support for and opposition to provisions for Māori representation. Questions about whether the Commission has power to create independent statutory board or maori wards
13. Issues relating to the impact on areas of Taupo and Rangitikei District Councils in currently Hawke’s Bay Region and the regional boundary between Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty.
14. Transition issues including membership and role of the transition board.

“This process has been a valuable way to get feedback on how to improve council structures in Hawke’s Bay. People have a lot of ideas and suggestions for the way local government operates in the region, Mr Riezebos said.

“If there are better ideas for local government arrangements we wanted to hear about them. We were 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 proposed new model of local government includes a layer of five community boards with 37 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 Hawke’s Bay depending on the passage of legislation currently before Parliament.

One council and one mayor, supported by a Maori Advisory Board, would work to advance the interests of the entire region and would provide strategic leadership across Hawke’s Bay as a whole. One council would also address concerns that Hawke’s Bay is being held back by rivalry and a lack of cooperation between existing councils.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

1. 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 authorityand are responsible for non-regulatory matters. 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 in Auckland. 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 local authority. They can only be altered by a local government reorganisation scheme.

A community board 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 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.

2. What are the next steps?
The Commission will travel to Hawkes Bay to begin public hearings involving those people who asked to be heard. Approximately 96 people asked to speak to their submissions. It is anticipated the first public hearings will take place in May.

3. What happens at the public hearings?
People are allocated 10 minutes which includes time for questions by the Commissioners. The Commissioners will have the submission in front of them so submitters do not need to read it aloud, but should 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. Such papers must be in support of the original submission.

Submitters will be called to speak by the Chair of the Commission who may exercise discretion about timing, depending on circumstances on the day.

4. What is the process after the hearings?
After the 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).

Guidelines and further background to the reorganisation process can be found at the Local Government Commission website: www.lgc.govt.nz

ENDS

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