21 Mar 2012

Council merger has no mandate - Southland council chair

8:51 pm on 21 March 2012

Chair of Southland Regional Council Ali Timms rejects a suggestion that local government reform will lead the region's councils to merge.

Under the changes, council mergers will only need majority support across a whole region, instead of a majority in each council area - and Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt says that will revitalise the push for a single Southland council.

The region currently has two district councils, a city council and a regional council.

Ms Timms says Mr Shadbolt seems to want to get his hands on other councils' assets, including the regional council's large stake in the Southland port company.

She says her council has no debt but Invercargill city owes $40 million.

Ms Timms says the merger idea has never had a mandate from the people of Southland.

Before resigning his portfolios Wednesday afternoon, local government minister Nick Smith briefed the mayors and chief executives of councils south of the Waitaki River on proposed reforms.

On Monday, the Government announced law changes to limit rates increases and get councils to focus more on infrastructure and public services.