Pressure Building For Local Body Amalgamation?

Today’s National Business review contains a series of articles that would suggest that the prospects for further amalgamation of local bodies may be improving.

Ben Thomas interviews a number of business people on the subject (page 16), Tony Garnier suggests that “a new regional structure and a new mandate seem to be the only way forward”for Auckland (page 32), and on the same page Garry Moore (former Mayor of Christchurch) calls for a one council solution to Auckland.

Perhaps most interesting is an article by Rodney Hide (written before the election and before he was appointed Local Government Minister).  Rodney says that there are too many councils, mayors and bureaucrats.  We agree fully Rodney and we expect you to move fast to do something about this.  Here is the text of the letter we wrote to Rodney Hide on Monday

Dear Rodney

Well done on being re-elected and on your appointment as Minister of Local Government. We could think of no better Minister for this portfolio. The sector is approaching crisis thanks to a growing rate payer intolerance of rate increases that are above the rate of inflation.

In this region we have a population of 474,000 and at local Government level we have nine councils. The situation is absurd, even worse than the situation in Auckland.

The best way to achieve efficiency gains and to keep the cost of local government down is rationalisation. We see no reason why the current nine councils cannot be collapsed into one council. If that idea is too radical a variant, we would see one council from Wellington to Kapiti up the west Coast, one council in the Hutt valley, and one council in the Wairarapa. With the Regional Council, this would leave four councils where there are today nine. Councils will, of course, find all kinds of reasons why this cannot happen. This is not surprising – turkeys do not normally vote for an early Christmas.

My events team will be in touch with your office shortly to find an opportunity for you to outline your plans for this portfolio to our members. 80 percent of our members support rationalisation of local bodies.

We also look forward to meeting you as part of the Local Government Forum of which we are members. I understand you will soon receive some recent publications from the Forum offering further ideas for reform and seeking a response to last year’s rates enquiry.

We wish you all the best for the next three years and look forward to providing any assistance you request to make a real difference to local government in New Zealand.



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