Recently, I released a discussion document on redesigning Local Government in Hawke’s Bay. This has predictably caused a lot of discussion and this is good. For the record, I have always supported some form of amalgamation in the region and I think it is time to have the debate again.
I think we have come a long way since our bitter parochial politics of the 1990’s. Barbara Arnott and I have a wonderful working relationship and we have made a genuine attempt to bring the two cities together. I believe we have had significant success and it has been easy.
So what I have proposed is not about merging Napier and Hastings with the rest of the region. It is about finding the most effective and efficient structure to deliver the required services to you, the ratepayers.
Yes there will be some efficiencies and cost savings, but worldwide evidence suggests that these are relatively modest. The real benefits come from collectively managing our physical resources, financial resources and people.
The model I have suggested deliberately allows for significant decision making at the local level, in Hastings and Napier, over things that are important to the cities. Road, water and storm water upgrades, urban design rules, community development are all things that residents are vitally interested in. I am suggesting that these be governed by the people in these communities.
More regional activities like Land Use Planning, Civil defence, Airport, Port, Libraries, Building Control, Environmental management and protection can more effectively be handled at a regional level.
I have also given a timeframe which allows for proper and reasoned debate. Any changes would have to be voted on in a binding referendum in late 2011 or early 2012 and would not be effective until 2013.
On Monday I was heartened to get the endorsement of all the current Mayors and Chair, that this topic should be worked on in 2011 and put to the people.
While certain commentators have questioned my motives for taking the lead on the issue of amalgamation, this is something I believe in. I pushed for it in 1999, and I’m going to push for it again. I think the time is right for the region to come together.
If the people want change they will vote for it. If they don’t they won’t. It’s as simple as that.