Unitary Authority
Friday, June 21, 2013 at 2:28PM
Bill Barclay

It seems that the move towards establishing a Thames Coromandel Unitary Authority is now well under way with a recommendation going before next Wednesday's meeting that Council approve:

"staff being asked to bring back a work programme for a local government reorganisation proposal, within the area of the Coromandel and the Thames Valley that will best promote the purpose of local government and improved economic performance by exploring opportunities ..... etc etc."

It seems that the decision has been made to ignore any proposal involving Hauraki or Matamata-Piako in the meantime, and this appears to imply acceptance that those two see a far different future with whatever emerges from the Waikato proposals. This is probably realistic, and reflects the almost complete breakdown in relationships at the political level, though it is acknowledged that it does deviate from the major thrust of the 1,000 signature Robinson petition presented on 7 December 2012.

The Robinson have remained up-beat about this outcome for some time, but it remains to be seem if the proposal that eventually emerges is capable of winning sufficient support in Wellington, or whether it will be seen inimical to the overall object of National to achieve a series of "super" authorities up and down the land. 

On the face of it, the proposal that is being presented at this stage is simply a 'pipe-opener', and appears innocuous enough to not cause any ructions. It will be what emerges later when "task-specific" staff (i.e. - consultants!) are employed to implement the wishes of Council and come up with a workable and feasible plan based on what amounts to a population, geographical and revenue base at the lower end of what has been considered viable elsewhere.

There are of course a number of other councils, including Northland, Gisborne, Wairarapa etc. that will be proposing similar arrangements, but there is no indication at this stage as to just how Government will regard these moves. One suspects that they will not be looked on favourably, but there is no telling until some or all put there plans forward. It sems unlikely that an outcome will be signalled until after the next election, let alone the local government election, but stranger things have happened.

In the meantime, there will no doubt be a number of studies instituted within this district that will hugely advantageous to the consulting industry, if not our pockets. On the face of it, and with the limited information we already have available, I would have to say that it may well prove advantageous, but I am constantly reminded of Steve Ruru's claim that Waikato Regional Council spent $2 for every dollar that residents of this district contributed to its coffers. The majority of this was in river and coastal protection, along with environmental and pest control. It remains to be seen just how we may be able to replicate these services  either cheaper or better in such a way as to mitigate the risk to an acceptable level, and I for one remain unconvinced in that regard.

So let the circus begin - we are but spectators at this stage, but we need to make sure that Glenn and his team are not leading us into the promised land on the basis of a whole lot of false premises.





Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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