21 Apr 2010

Govt will not impose further reforms, says Hide

3:05 pm on 21 April 2010

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide says the Government has no intention of forcing reforms on regions such as Northland.

The mayors of the Far North and Whangarei district want to dissolve the Northland Regional Council and take over its job and assets by forming two unitary authorities.

The Whangarei District Council is telling residents that the Government is likely to turn its attention to other regions once it has dealt with uniting Auckland as a super-city later this year.

Mr Hide says there is no plan to impose change on Northland, but the Government will put out a discussion paper for councils throughout New Zealand to consider next year.

Any changes will need to be the result of community consensus, he says.

Whangarei deputy mayor Phil Halse says voters who see no need for local government reform should consider what has happened to their assets under the present regime.

If the Northland Regional Council was dissolved the mayors say unitary authorities would inherit the regional council's multimillion-dollar investment portfolio, including shares in Marsden Port.

Crticis of the reform proposal, including Whangarei mayoral hopeful Warren Slater,

see it as a bid by the district councils to raid the regional council's coffers.

Mr Slater says Northland's governance is not broken and does not need fixing. He says the regional council has considerable assets, unlike the district councils, which are strapped for cash and looking for ways to make an impact in an election year.

However, Mr Halse says the regional council inherited major ratepayer assets 20 years ago and has done little to grow them.