4 Jul 2010

Council accused of using reform to sort debt crisis

6:17 am on 4 July 2010

Former Whangarei District Council member Frank Newman says a push for local government reform in Northland is a front for a raid on the assets of the Northland Regional Council.

He told commissioners hearing the case on Friday that the finances of the Whangarei and Far North Councils have deteriorated in the past 10 years because of over-spending and poor financial management.

Mr Newman said the councils are now caught in a compounding debt spiral and their only way out is to sell property or come into money.

He said in his view that's the dominant reason for Whangarei's push to merge with the regional council to become a unitary authority.

Mr Newman also said it would be dangerous to give the Whangarei council the powers of a unitary authority.

He said when he was on the council, it was at times in breach of its own consents and only the threat of legal action by the regional council had forced it to act.