15 Sep 2015

Hawke's Bay says 'no' to amalgamating councils

8:00 pm on 15 September 2015

Hawke's Bay voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to amalgamate the region's five councils.

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Photo: RNZ

The region has been voting over the past few weeks on whether the five councils - Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, Central Hawke's Bay and the Regional Council - should be merged into one council.

Chief returning officer Warwick Lampp said with 97 percent of the vote counted, about 44,000 people voted no while about 22,000 voted yes.

About 60 percent of eligible people cast a vote.

The poll was triggered after A Better Hawke's Bay sent a petition to the Local Government Commission proposing a single new council for the region.

There had been vigourous debate over the amalgamation proposal, with Napier Mayor Bill Dalton against amalgamation, while Hastings District Mayor Lawrence Yule was a leading supporter.

Hastings was the only region where a majority of people voted for the change, with about 15,000 votes for the amalgamation and 14,000 against it.

Mr Yule said the results were surprising.

"The margin of the defeat has surprised me. I always believed that the people should decide this and I actually as recently as yesterday believed we would lose by a small margin."

Almost 84 percent of Napier voters rejected amalgamation, and city mayor Bill Dalton said the vote confirmed what many residents had been feeling all along.

"There was a strong feeling throughout the region that the Local Government Commission only used Hawke's Bay as a test case," he said.

"They tried to get amalgamation to fly in Northland and it didn't. They tried to get amalgamation to fly in Wellington and it didn't and they wanted to justify their position by trying to get it to fly in Hawke's Bay."

Mr Dalton said he believed the region could make ecomonic headway without an amalgamation.

The mayors of Central Hawke's Bay and Wairoa also strongly opposed amalgamation.