Unitary council plan pitched
An investigation into a unitary authority for Otago is ‘‘long overdue’’ and other district councils, including in the Dunstan region, should be involved in the process, Otago regional councillor Michael Laws says.
Dunedin City councillors backed a resolution last Tuesday calling for a report into a merger between the city council and regional council.
Laws said the commitment of the DCC to explore a unitary authority for the district was long overdue and other district councils – including in the Dunstan region – would benefit from being involved too.
‘‘I will be moving a motion at the next Otago Regional Council meeting to suggest that the unitary authority idea be independently investigated for all of the Otago region. Dunedin can’t do this in isolation because the effects would be in Queenstown, Central, Clutha and the Waitaki as well. Without Dunedin, the Otago Regional Council would cease to have a constructive purpose.’’
Central Otago District Mayor Tim Cadogan said the merger pitch came out of ‘‘left field’’ and he questioned if a unitary council was created for Dunedin, where would it leave other parts of the current ORC.
‘‘What would the replacement look like? Would it be what we have, less Dunedin? Or would there be other unitary councils formed, such as a unitary council for the area currently covered by the CODC and the QLDC? I would need a lot of convincing this would benefit the residents of the current CODC area.’’
The financial implications would take a ‘‘great deal of working through’’. The people of the district, through being part of the ORC, had an interest in the Port of Otago, a significant asset and income generator, he said.
‘‘What becomes of that interest under this proposal?’’
Central Otago’s biggest economic threat was the ending of the deemed permits for taking water in October 2021.
The ORC was the authority working through changing current permits to resource consents before then.
‘‘I do not want anything to distract from that crucial task. It is early days in this discussion and I will watch what direction the DCC takes with a mixture of interest and concern.’’
The Poolburn Hotel in the Ida Valley in Central Otago.