No Waitaki proposal on local government

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The Local Government Forum has released a discussion paper on local government restructuring around the country but no firm proposal has emerged from the Waitaki District Council.

Waitaki Deputy Mayor Hugh Perkins said the issue had been discussed informally around the council table.

“I do not sense that there is a strong will for the council to put forward a proposal at present. There is no guarantee that amalgamations will necessarily reduce costs but they will reduce local autonomy.”

Mr Perkins said shared services where sensible and practical could help to hold or reduce costs without as much disruption.

“Amalgamation with near neighbours may exacerbate problems such as how to maintain extensive infrastructure at an affordable cost in thinly populated areas,” he said.

“That said, the fact that our district falls under both Environment Canterbury and the Otago Regional Council is somewhat cumbersome, particularly for planning staff, and it places extra demands on the mayor and CEO to attend various forums in both regional council areas.”

Local Government Forum chairman Michael Barnett said all around the country debates, were taking place as to whether to merge with neighbouring councils to form bigger regional entities.

“The Local Government Commission is currently consulting on reorganisation proposals for Northland and Hawkes Bay, and is considering applications from Wellington and Wairarapa,” he said.

“The Government has taken the approach not to impose a single solution. The Local Government Forum does not have a formal position on local government restructuring. “Individual members of the forum have their own views on the issue, with many of them taking locally determined positions on a case-by-case basis and consistent with the principle of local democracy.

“What our discussion paper aims to do is provide information on the process for restructuring and to discuss some of the issues people should bear in mind when considering whether to put forward a proposal to restructure local government or when responding to a particular proposal,” Mr Barnett said.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher is on holiday and unavailable for comment.

By CHRIS TOBIN