On Wednesday, the Regional Council will decide whether it supports or opposes democratic change in Hawke’s Bay.
At issue is the HBRC’s proposed submission on the Government’s pending local government reorganisation bill.
As drafted, the HBRC submission would oppose each of the provisions aimed at facilitating democratically-supported change to our local/regional government structure.
The thrust of the Government changes would allow local reorganisation to proceed if substantial community support is demonstrated. Those who would oppose reorganisation can trigger a poll on any reorg measure by gathering petitions signed by 10% of electors in the entire affected area. If a poll is triggered, then a majority of electors voting throughout the entire affected area must support the reorg for it to proceed.
This is plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face democracy, changing rules that now permit any single jurisdiction in the region to block change.
If the HBRC votes to file its submission as presently drafted, Councillors will be voting to preserve the status quo.
Both in terms of protecting minority rule and in terms of protecting the current government structure in Hawke’s Bay.
There will be no other way to interpret their action.
Meanwhile, those pondering reorganisation in Hawke’s Bay should take note of these results for Auckland reported by Rodney Hide in a Sunday Herald article:
“In 2009 when the transition began, there were 10,000 staff across the eight councils. There are now 8000. The cut was not from front-line staff and service delivery but to management as duplication was eliminated in establishing the one council. The savings total $94 million in wages alone every year. It works out to more than $1 billion in savings over 10 years.”
“On top of that Brown made further annual savings of $81 million in his first year and an extra $40 million every year from his second year. In addition to the more than billion-dollar savings achieved through transition, Brown is likely to save another $1.7 billion over the next 10 years. These savings have been made with service levels maintained and sometimes improved. The Auckland Council is doing more with less.”
“The hikes in rates have been reined in. The average rate increase across Auckland for the past eight years was 5.7 per cent. The previous eight councils were planning to hike rates by a weighted average of 6 per cent for 2011-2012. Mayor Len Brown paid for the transition costs, had the Rugby World Cup, and cut that rate hike to 3.9 per cent. That’s a big saving. In his second year the rate hike is 3.6 and for the years beyond it’s 4 to 4.9 per cent.”
“But get this: the eight councils and their subsidiaries were investing $1 billion a year on capital in Auckland. It wasn’t near enough. Len Brown is investing $2 billion a year.”
Note that apart from savings of various kinds, a unified Auckland has been able to negotiate significant agreement with central government regarding the priorities and flow of tax dollars into the region.
A similar kind of partnership between Wellington and Hawke’s Bay, based on a single regional socioeconomic plan well-articulated and supported by a unitary local body ready to take political responsibility for the wellbeing of our entire region, is essential to any improvement of our social wellbeing in Hawke’s Bay. And just as important — maybe more so — than the savings.