Barker looks over ditch

South Waikato News - - OPINION - By NORM BARKER

En­vi­ron­ment Waikato councillor for South Waikato

Abig thank you to all who sup­ported me in the Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil elec­tions. I look for­ward to work­ing as your councillor for South Waikato/ Ro­torua over the next three years.

I cer­tainly had a run for my money through the elec­tion process which re­ally brought home to me the lack of clear un­der­stand­ing about the re­gional coun­cil’s func­tions and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

If ratepay­ers and res­i­dents don’t have a full un­der­stand­ing of what the coun­cil does how can they feel they are get­ting value for the hard-earned dol­lars they pay in rates?

It is my mis­sion to ex­plain what we do and why. I thank the South Waikato News for the space to ex­plain the big en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic is­sues fac­ing our district and re­gion, and what the re­gional coun­cil is do­ing to ad­dress these is­sues.

I hope these col­umns will help give a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of what your rates fund and that you see ex­cel­lent value in what you are re­ceiv­ing for your money.

A hot topic is the for­ma­tion of the Auck­land su­per city.

As a re­sult a range of views have been put for­ward for lo­cal govern­ment in gen­eral with some ques­tion­ing whether we even need re­gional coun­cils.

So it is timely to dis­cuss the most ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive model of lo­cal govern­ment. There are many pos­si­ble ar­range­ments from the sta­tus quo to shared ser­vices to coun­cil amal­ga­ma­tions to a sin­gle re­gional body com­bin­ing city, district and re­gional coun­cils.

It’s in­ter­est­ing to com­pare Waikato and Tas­ma­nia.

Waikato has a pop­u­la­tion of just on 400,000 and Tas­ma­nia 500,000.

Both have mas­sive coast­lines and large ar­eas of for­est, lakes and rivers.

Tas­ma­nia is larger with 62,000sqkm com­pared with Waikato’s 25,000sqkm.

But when it comes to gov­er­nance of the two ar­eas there are big dif­fer­ences.

Tas­ma­nia is rep­re­sented in Can­berra by five Fed­eral MPs and 12 sen­a­tors.

It has a state govern­ment in Ho­bart com­pris­ing a 15-mem­ber Tas­ma­nian Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil (up­per house) and 25-mem­ber House of Assem­bly (lower house). It also has 29 city and district mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Waikato has 10 MPs in Welling­ton, 12 coun­cil­lors on the re­gional coun­cil and 10 city and district coun­cils; com­pared with Tas­ma­nia, a fairly stream­lined lo­cal govern­ment struc­ture I would have thought.

I would not like to see many more amal­ga­ma­tions as un­ques­tion­ably you would be­gin to lose lo­cal de­ci­sion­mak­ing abil­ity.

The an­swer is more shared ser­vices be­tween coun­cils.

Fu­ture col­umns will cover eco­nomic growth and the en­vi­ron­ment, trans­port, co­man­age­ment of the Waikato River, the reg­u­la­tory func­tions of a re­gional coun­cil and, if the edi­tor lets me ig­nite the de­bate, the vexed ques­tion of 1080.

Norm Barker can be con­tacted on email norm.barker<\@>ew.govt.nz or tele­phone 021 815437.

Norm Barker

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