Councils advised to collaborate and share
Having accepted that there is “no appetite” in Northland for local authority amalgamations, the Local Government Commission has recommended Northland Regional Council and the three district councils maintain their focus on regional collaboration and exploration of shared service opportunities.
It has also recommended that: * The mayors and chairman consider how they can most effectively champion and socialise the regional collaboration approach and shared services within their districts;
* They consider recasting Northland Forward Together as an explicitly multi-year programme and provide greater clarity about the priorities, sequencing and resourcing of the projects and work streams under the Northland Forward Together umbrella;
* They consider applying the concept of dispersed ‘centres of excellence’ in developing the Northland Forward Together programme;
* They confirm their commitment to the Northland Transportation Alliance (NTA) and its development along the lines envisaged by the business case for its establishment.
The commission noted that there had been a significant change in the relationships among the councils, and considerable progress had been made in regional collaboration. Setting up Northland Forward Together to explore a range of opportunities for shared services was a positive step, but there would be challenges in resourcing such a large and diverse shared services work programme.
The NTA, which was the first arrangement of its type in New Zealand, was still at an early stage, and needed to be persisted with and developed if the gains identified in the business case were to be achieved.
“The progress that the Northland councils are making is only possible because of a major change in the relationships among the region’s four councils over the period since the reorganisation application was lodged in early 2013,” the commission said. “Historically relationships among Northland local authorities have tended at times to be quite fractious. With the benefit of hindsight, it is apparent that the reorganisation proposal made to the commission arose, at least in part, out of a breakdown in relationships.” The Northland Regional Council has sold a Gillies St property it bought two years ago to safeguard it as a future essential link between Kawakawa’s main street and a proposed Hundertwasser Park Centre development there.
Regional councillor Justin Blaikie said the sale of the almost 1000 square metre property to development backer Far North Holdings would take effect on Friday.
The council paid $485,000 for 56 Gillies St, immediately beside the world-famous toilet complex developed by the late Friedensreich Hundertwasser, in 2016, to ensure it would remain available as part of the proposed Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Centre/Te Hononga, honouring the artist, who died in 2000.
The proposal is spearheaded by a charitable trust, the Far North District Council and FNHL.
With the project now progressing, the regional council had sold the property to FNHL, at the same price it paid in 2016, with the proceeds returning to the council’s property reinvestment fund.
Mr Blaikie said the council had also set aside $500,000 from its investment and growth reserve to assist with construction of the Hundertwasser Park Centre.
“The trust needs to meet a number of conditions before the money is provided, including obtaining all necessary resource and building consents and a fixed price construction tender.”
The trust had originally been given until June 30 this year to meet the conditions, but that had been extended to December 31.
An artist’s impression of Kawakawa’s Hundertwasser Park — Te Hononga.