Mayors oppose amalgamation
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.