Amalgamation not on the agenda
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.