May­ors op­pose amal­ga­ma­tion

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

May­ors from across the Waikato are united against a dis­cus­sion doc­u­ment to form one coun­cil for the en­tire re­gion.

The doc­u­ment by the New Zealand Property Coun­cil would, if suc­cess­ful, amal­ga­mate the Waikato District, Waipa District, Mata­mataPi­ako District, Hamil­ton City and parts of the Otoro­hanga, South Waikato and Wait­omo Districts into one uni­tary author­ity.

How­ever, none of the districts’ may­ors can­vassed by Fair­fax said they had re­ceived any com­mu­ni­ca­tions from the property coun­cil on the mat­ter and most were dis­mis­sive of it.

A sum­mary of the property coun­cil’s sub­mis­sion – which will be made pub­lic this month – said amal­ga­ma­tion would bring ‘‘a greater re­gional voice, a greater role for the com­mu­nity in lo­cal gov­er­nance . . . [and] cost sav­ings.’’

The move could also in­volve con­sol­i­da­tion of the coun­cils’ debts, which to­tal just un­der half a bil­lion dol­lars.

South Waikato Mayor Neil Sin­clair said the district’s voice would be lost along with its power.

‘‘They are sug­gest­ing to min­imise the num­ber of coun­cil­lors and in­crease the num­ber of com­mu­nity boards, whose chairs have no power,’’ he said.

The doc­u­ment, de­scribed by Sin­clair as ‘‘ ex­tremely light’’, leaves the coun­cil with unan­swered ques­tions.

‘‘It con­tains lit­tle, if any, ac­tual cost anal­y­sis, is highly anec­do­tal and is driven from a purely property de­vel­op­ment per­spec­tive,’’ he said.

Af­ter re­view­ing the doc­u­ment, Sin­clair said he was against the amal­ga­ma­tion.

‘‘ Con­tin­ued col­lab­o­ra­tion and shared ser­vices are some­thing that our coun­cil does and will con­tinue to do very well with its neigh­bours,’’ he said. Otoro­hanga Mayor Max Bax­ter said the pro­posal was ‘‘out­ra­geous’’.

‘‘Just go­ing on the out­lay of the districts they’re propos­ing, es­pe­cially when it comes to parts of Otoro­hanga, South Waikato and Wait­omo . . . my be­lief is that the Lo­cal Govern­ment Com­mis­sion won’t have a lot of in­ter­est in it.’’ His coun­cil had been ‘‘kept out of the loop’’ – a sen­ti­ment echoed through­out the re­gion.

But New Zealand Property Coun­cil Waikato branch pres­i­dent Rob Dol has said at­tempts had been made to en­gage.

‘‘We’ve ac­tu­ally en­gaged with a num­ber of coun­cils and some of them have cho­sen not to en­gage.’’

Dol said the stream­lin­ing of coun­cil ser­vices put in place by the Waikato May­oral Fo­rum was a pos­i­tive step, but didn’t ad­dress is­sues like ‘‘a re­gional voice on a na­tional stage’’.

‘‘We do be­lieve also that there is still du­pli­ca­tion and in­ef­fi­ciency in lo­cal govern­ment in its cur­rent for­mat.’’

He be­lieved the sub­mis­sion would save costs in the long run.

Waikato District Mayor and Waikato May­oral Fo­rum chair­man Al­lan San­son said the col­lec­tive did not have a view on lo­cal govern­ment re­form.

Thames Coro­man­del District Mayor Glenn Leach said a re­or­gan­i­sa­tion in his coun­cil , more than three years ago had paid div­i­dends – in­clud­ing a 6 per cent de­crease in rates and more power given to com­mu­nity boards.

Mata­mata- Pi­ako Mayor Jan Barnes said the stream­lin­ing of ser­vices among the ru­ral coun­cils was al­ready ‘‘ show­ing the Govern­ment we can give a ‘ One Waikato’ voice.’’

Waipa Mayor Jim Mylchreest said his coun­cil had not been con­sulted.

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