Here is an important opening contribution to the debate Hawke’s Bay will have over amalgamation.
In a post published last week on Backing the Bay, Chris Tremain makes a very useful distinction between merging cities and merging political leadership. Two different things as he sees it. Strikes me as a helpful way to frame the issues.
Here is his full article …
Amalgamation…too hot to handle, or too important to miss?
The debate over amalgamation is sure to feature strongly in coming months. It’s important that you know exactly where I stand on this issue as its one that will be hotly debated. Personally I believe amalgamation of our councils, not our cities, would bring gains to our province. Over the coming months I’ll be arguing for this, but not at all costs. Napier people have genuine concerns and I would not be supportive of any final change unless these issues could be fairly dealt with. In addition the proposal from Lawrence Yule requires majority support from Napier so unless the argument can be carried his proposal will not suceed.
Amalgamation in Hawkes Bay is not being driven by central Government. Under the current proposal a mandate needs to be achieved in Hawkes Bay before any legislation would be drafted (if needed). There is no Government agenda for amalgamation across the country albeit the cabinet has said it will support councils that wish to proceed down this track
The pro’s for the community are simple – one clearly articulated vision for building our awesome province, it’s unique cities and individual towns, supported by one council. This is not about merging the two cities, it’s about merging leadership. This allows clarity around key initiatives to support one vision together with an understanding of the development, environmental and rate payer service priorities across the province. For instance there would not have been two separate sewerage systems developed for the two cities. With one system there would have been genuine savings for all, including the environment.
There’s already plenty of good examples in the Bay. Sport HB has a governance structure from across the Bay and delivers seamless services throughout the province. The HB Regional Council has representation from across the Bay and provides services to all. EIT provides services across the Bay, without any loss of identity to the cities.
The concerns regarding identity are solved by strong representation from each city and town on the council. Remember the aim is not to combine the cities, just the councils. And there are already plenty of examples. Taradale and Havelock, despite much protestation at the time, are now amalgamated into Napier and Hastings. Haumoana and Te Awanga have their own unique identities within the Hastings District Council. Right now people who live in Whirinaki pay rates to Hastings but consider themselves Napier citizens.
The concern about different debt levels between the two cities is real. But this can be handled fairly through differential rating.
The world is changing. When it comes to tourism or marketing the province, size does matter. As a province we would still be less than a 1/5 of the size of an amalgamated Auckland and 1/2 the size of an amalgamated Wellington. Fact is that if we are to get our fair share of central government funding we need to be united and to clearly articulate a vision for the future of our awesome province.