12 Nov 2013

Single council for Northland proposed

8:33 pm on 12 November 2013

The Local Government Commission has recommended a single unitary council for the whole of Northland.

The commission at Waitangi on Tuesday revealed its draft proposal for reorganising local government in the region

It proposes one council and one mayor for Northland and a second tier of community boards.

A new nine-member council to be based in Whangarei would replace Far North District Council, Whangarei District Council, Kaipara District Council and Northland Regional Council.

The commission also proposes a special council committee to represent Northland's large Maori population. It says council debt, such as Kaipara's, would be ring-fenced for at least six years to the communities that incurred it.

The two biggest district councils, Whangarei and the Far North, had proposed a two-council model - abolishing the regional council and dividing its assets between them.

But commission chairperson Basil Morrison believes a single council would make Northland stronger and allow it to speak to central government with one voice.

"We saw it would weaken the current regional councils' functions across the whole of the north, if you split that into two. We've also got the assets of the port company and just how that'd play out in splitting that ownership.

"It's all very inter-linked, Northland. It's made up of a number of quite small communities, and to try and split it into two unitaries would weaken that strength."

The commission is calling for submissions on the Northland unitary proposal by 14 February next year.