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West Coast Council Considers Rejoining LGNZ

The West Coast Regional Council has agreed to consider rejoining Local Government NZ, but only to represent the entire local government sector in the region.

This geographic comparison is used by the West Coast Regional Council to illustrate the economic challenge the sparsely populated region with a 650km length and just 22,000 rateable units has to adequately service its residents. LGNZ has been firm on its position their fee is per council and not the number of ratepayers. PICTURE: West Coast Regional Council

In mid-2023, the council kicked to touch its membership to the body which represents New Zealand councils.

The year before, in 2022, it put LGNZ on notice after querying the collective cost and benefit to West Coast ratepayers.

LGNZ charged fees for each of the region's three district councils and its regional council.

LGNZ president and Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton fronted council in April, talking up the benefits of membership, while noting membership was based on an individual council, not the number of ratepayers.

He received a cool reception but a staff report back to council this week suggested council should reconsider now, or defer it again until 2025. [https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/west-coast/little-enthusiasm-council-rejoin-lgnz]

In recent months the Westland and Grey district councils have decided not to renew their LGNZ membership, although Buller last month confirmed it will remain a member.

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Regional council acting chairman Brett Cummings said it would make sense to have at least one council in the region as an LGNZ member.

Cr Frank Dooley, the sole voice in 2023 to keep LGNZ membership, said he wanted clarity around council's benefit in the past year of being part of the alternative regional councils' sector group Te Uru Kahika.

Council chief executive Darryl Lew said the question of LGNZ membership was for council, not management. However, council would "not survive" without the input of Te Uru Kahika.

It provided crucial tools such as a shared compliance framework template for example which were invaluable for the regional sector, Mr Lew said.

The main benefit for council from Te Uru Kahika was at an operational level and "to a degree, politically, so we don't have to reinvent the wheel".

Mr Lew said LGNZ membership could be "a political vehicle" for councillors.

At the same time, there was "very little operational benefit" by returning to LGNZ whereas Te Uru Kahika had successfully elevated to a national level in recent years a collective approach to the likes of flood infrastructure, he said.

Cr Mark McIntyre asked if council would get $41,000 of value by re-joining LGNZ.

Mr Lew replied said "that's up to you", but Westland and Grey councils deemed their membership was not good value.

Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae representative Francois Tumahai said he saw some value in the region being collectively represented by LGNZ.

That could be via one council and he suggested this be canvassed at an upcoming mayors, chairs, and iwi leaders' forum.

"It's definitely useful to be in there, but not at an astronomical sum," Mr Tumahai said.

Cr Dooley agreed, saying representation for one council was important at a national level.

He called on council to give its chair and the chief executive discretion to confirm membership.

However, Cr Peter Ewen said he was still opposed to LGNZ but would go with one voice for the four councils.

Cr Ewen said "giving away $41,000" to LGNZ was still questionable in his mind.

Cr Ewen said he would be happy for the LGNZ matter to be an "action point" rather than a recommendation.

This was supported five votes to one.

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