Amal­ga­ma­tion not on the agenda

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By STEVE ED­WARDS

The ‘‘A-word’’ is not on Mata­mataPi­ako District Coun­cil’s agenda.

While amal­ga­ma­tion re­mains the ‘‘ele­phant in the room’’ among lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in the Waikato, Mata­mata- Pi­ako Mayor Jan Barnes said it is not on her coun­cil’s radar.

‘‘As a ru­ral coun­cil, we are a suc­cess­ful model,’’ she told the Mata­mata Chron­i­cle last week. ‘‘I can’t see any ad­van­tage in amal­ga­ma­tion. We want to keep a lo­cal voice.’’

In the fu­ture she could see some smaller coun­cils merge. ‘‘ They may not be sus­tain­able.’’

Barnes said the is­sue has never come onto an MPDC agenda. ‘‘There is noth­ing to bring to coun­cil. Why do we need to amal­ga­mate?

‘‘The com­mu­nity has told me ‘don’t you dare’. We are work­ing ex­tremely well,’’ she said. ‘‘ I be­lieve we are one of the best coun­cils in New Zealand.’’

Part of the Waikato May­oral Fo­rum, she said the em­pha­sis there is on shared ser­vices.

The MPDC al­ready works with neigh­bours Hau­raki District Coun­cil and Thames-Coro­man­del District Coun­cil in rubbish collection and dis­posal.

She said Waikato coun­cils col­lec­tively worked on the ex­press­way project.

A na­tional meet­ing of ru­ral and provin­cial coun­cils she at­tended in Welling­ton heard that any de­ci­sion on amal­ga­ma­tion would be up to the re­spec­tive coun­cil via a com­mu­nity ref­er­en­dum.

There is no pres­sure from the Govern­ment, said Barnes.

In a let­ter to the Mata­mataPi­ako Mayor, new Lo­cal Govern­ment Min­is­ter Paula Ben­nett said: ‘‘The Govern­ment will not force any amal­ga­ma­tions.

‘‘We have made it eas­ier for com­mu­ni­ties to make struc­tural change if they de­cide that this is right for their com­mu­nity, but I feel strongly that this is a com­mu­nity de­ci­sion and not one for cen­tral govern­ment.’’

Chair­woman Paula South­gate said Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil was not propos­ing any par­tic­u­lar struc­ture for lo­cal govern­ment in the Waikato, but wanted to play a con­struc­tive part in dis­cus­sions about lo­cal govern­ment re­form.

‘‘We want to have prin­ci­ples­based dis­cus­sion about the form and func­tion of lo­cal govern­ment and fo­cus on col­lab­o­rat­ing with other coun­cils to see how we can col­lec­tively drive greater ef­fi­cien­cies for our ratepay­ers,’’ she said.

‘‘We have an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to work to­gether for the bet­ter­ment of the re­gion and all our com­mu­ni­ties.’’

Re­gional coun­cil­lors felt that if lo­cal govern­ment re­forms re­sulted in a larger Waikato coun­cil, there was a real risk that a coun­cil dom­i­nated by Hamil­ton in­ter­ests would see ru­ral ar­eas miss out. On the other hand, if the coun­cil was pre­dom­i­nantly ru­ral, then ur­ban in­ter­ests could lose their voice on the larger coun­cil.

They agreed that if the Lo­cal Govern­ment Com­mis­sion was propos­ing any re­or­gan­i­sa­tion it should be able to rec­om­mend that spe­cific lo­cal boards have the power to re­quire the gov­ern­ing coun­cil to raise rates for a spe­cific range of func­tions sup­ported by the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

The present Waikato lo­cal govern­ment model in­cludes a re­gional coun­cil and 11 ter­ri­to­rial coun­cils.

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