12 Aug 2016

West Coast support for merging council services

4:19 pm on 12 August 2016

A majority of West Coast submitters support merging some of the region's council services.

And nearly half say a full merger between some West Coast council is a good idea.

Punakaiki on the West Coast

West Coast councils fund their services from a base of just 23,000 ratepayers. Photo: wiki commons

Close to 700 submissions on ideas for council reorganisation in the region were sent to the Local Government Commission following a lengthy consultation process this year.

The results released today showed more than half thought some council services, such as roading, planning and consents and information technology, could be more efficient if shared by councils across the Coast.

Options put forward in feedback included joining the Grey and Westland districts, combining all four councils in the region, or spreading regional council functions over the districts.

The four councils - West Coast Regional Council and the Grey, Buller and Westland District Councils - currently look after roads and services that stretch the same distance as Wellington to Auckland, from a rateable base of just 23,000 properties.

Commissioner Janie Annear said the consultation was to get an understanding of the level of support for change.

"These results tell us that there is a sufficient level of community support for continuing to consider the possibility of some change in local government arrangements, but it is still very early days,'' Mrs Annear said.

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the results showed change was inevitable.

The process had been comprehensive and was heading in the right direction, he said.

"The commission is really saying that there is enough evidence to take it to a new stage, and they'll be calling for new proposals."

That could range from shared services only, to combining councils on the West Coast, he said.

The commission would now seek further opinion on fine-tuning options, Mrs Annear said.

It would provide an outline of potential options, developed from community feedback and through the commission's work with West Coast councils.

"We will also continue to work with the West Coast councils on joint regional efficiency initiatives, specifically regional road arrangements and joint [Resource Management Act] planning," Mrs Annear said.

The next stage of consultation would begin in February next year.