Sunday, February 15, 2015
Mike Butler: Hastings resists amalgamation
That next step is to collect around 4400 Hastings signatures to trigger a poll on the issue.
As a bit of background, a group of wealthy business people under the banner of A Better Hawke’s Bay started pushing for amalgamation about two years ago by letter-boxing a colour brochure throughout the region.
Although this group gave the appearance of a grassroots desire for change, the emergence of a similar group in Northland at the same time sparked speculation that local government amalgamation is a central government plan that would lead to the privatisation of local government assets and increase in local government debt.
The Auckland councils amalgamated on November 1, 2010. Amalgamation there:
Hiked rates by 8 percent in the first year. (1)
Increased debt by 30 percent in year one.
Set up powerless local boards.
Set up a Maori board that produced a $295-million spending plan for Maori.(2)
Amalgamating the five existing councils in Hawke’s Bay into one super council with five local boards and a Maori board all based in Napier is likely to:
Replace Hastings’ 14 councillors with six councillors and nine local board members.(3)
Introduce a Maori board and race-based spending.
The proposal from A Better Hawke’s Bay two years ago envisaged a unitary authority with one mayor elected district-wide, 16 councillors (Hastings six, Napier six, Wairoa two, Central Hawke’s Bay two), and five community boards (Hastings, Napier, Wairoa, Central Hawke’s Bay, and rural) with five members on each, and a five-member Maori Leader’s Forum.
The Local Government Commission presented a draft proposal for amalgamation in Hawke’s Bay and invited submissions that were presented in June of last year.(4)
That proposal envisaged a unitary authority with one mayor elected district-wide, nine councillors elected from five wards (Hastings, Napier, Wairoa, Central Hawke’s Bay, and Ngaruroro), five community boards (Hastings, Napier, Wairoa, Central Hawke’s Bay, and Ngaruroro) with a total of 37 elected members, and a Maori board.
Submissions showed a high degree of opposition, with 83 percent against.
The commission produced a position paper last November with a revised scheme.
That envisaged a unitary authority with one mayor, 18 councillors elected from five wards (Hastings six, Napier six, Wairoa two, Central Hawke’s Bay two, and Ngaruroro two), five local boards (Hastings – nine elected, two appointed; Napier – nine elected, two appointed; Wairoa – six elected, two appointed; Central Hawke’s Bay – six elected, two appointed; and Ngaruroro – seven elected, two appointed), and a Maori board, presumably appointed.
Quite striking in this increasingly complicated arrangement is the appearance of appointees acting as representatives. There are 10 appointees on community boards as well as the entirely appointed Maori board. The questions are who is doing the appointing and who do these appointees represent?
Other more basic questions include:
The Local Government Commission predicts transition costs of around $19-million which would bring annual ongoing savings of around $10-million from year five.
Transition to a Hawkes Bay Council as proposed by the Local Government Commission is viable with a payback period of around four years. Table 6 shows that annual ongoing savings build to around $10-million from year five, requiring transition costs of around $19-million. (5)
Undiscounted gains over thirty years are expected to total $260-million.
Savings gains totalling $10-million comprise: Corporate personnel (37 percent of total) corporate other (30 percent, activities opex (14 percent), activities capex (9 percent), governance costs 6 percent) and audit costs (4 percent).
Information technology is expected to cost $12.6-million.
Redundancy cost were unstated in the transition cost report
In Auckland, staff cost savings came from a combination of: reduction in staff, unfilled vacancies and filling positions at lower rates of remuneration. Around $80 million in staff cost savings were associated with $27-million in redundancies. Redundancy costs were therefore around 33 percent of staff cost savings.
A $4-million budget over 12 months is assumed for a Hawke’s Bay transition body.
14. Why is this being pushed now? What is the urgency?
The commission also stated an intention to survey 2000 residents across Hawke’s Bay, and parts of Taupo and Rangitikei, to gauge support for the revised position, arguing that the 83 percent opposition found in submissions only represented 1 percent of residents.
That survey is taking place around now.
According to the November 2014 position paper, the commission is expected soon to release its position regarding existing council debt and how this should be treated in an amalgamation. The Hastings District Council external debt is from $55-million to $79-million depending on whose figures you rely on, and Napier, $4-million.
By the end of March, the commission will decide whether to issue a modified draft proposal as the final proposal, largely reflecting the Nov 2014 position or if deciding not to issue a final proposal, will instead issue a public notice, and the re-organisation process in Hawke’s Bay would cease.
If a modified draft proposal is issued, residents have 60 days in April and June for 10 percent or more of affected electors in the district to demand a poll Around 4400 signatures would be required for Hastings.
If no valid petition is received, the final proposal would be implemented by an order in council establishing a transition body with an interim chief executive to prepare the required scheme.
But if a valid petition is received, a regional poll would be held after any successful petition from July to September.
We would know if the regional poll supported or opposed the final proposal by October.
If it supported the final proposal, then this would be implemented by an order in council establishing a transition body as detailed above.
If it opposed amalgamation, the re-organisation process would cease and the existing councils would continue.
While the other three mayors are all anti-amalgamation, Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule is a very vocal supporter of amalgamation and the Hastings District Council is spending around $50,000 to convince Hastings residents to back him. However, whether Hastings residents support amalgamation remains unknown.
This issue should go to a regional vote. The starting point for a vote is a petition calling for a vote. Around 4400 Hastings signatures are required to trigger a poll on the issue. A total of 5000 signatures could be collected by 50 people each collecting 100 signatures.
While organising this group I have not found a single person who supports the proposal to absorb the councils of Hastings, Napier, Wairoa, and Central Hawke’s Bay, plus the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, into one super council with five local boards, and a Maori board, with the headquarters in Napier.
For those living in Hawke’s Bay, your say is critical. Find out what you can do to help by coming to the Havelock North Community Centre on Tuesday, February 24 at 7pm (admission free) or by visiting www.amalgamatehbnot.com
1. Super City Project, Auckland University of Technology, http://www.supercityproject.aut.ac.nz/value-for-money, p39
2. Brewer slams Maori plan as unrealistic, NZ Herald, September 4, 2012. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10831503
3. Hawke’s Bay Position Paper. http://www.lgc.govt.nz/assets/Hawkes-Bay-17-November-2014/Hawkes-Bay-position-paper-FINAL.pdf
4. Draft Proposal Hawke’s Bay. http://www.lgc.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Draft-Proposal-for-Reorganisation-in-Hawkes-Bay.pdf
5.Report to Local Government Commission on Hawkes Bay transition costs, November 6, 2014. https://www.google.co.nz/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=report%20to%20local%20government%20commission%20on%20hawkes%20bay%20transition%20costs
at 11:14 AM