Barker looks over ditch
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.