13 Nov 2013

Unitary council idea splits Northland communities

4:15 pm on 13 November 2013

A veteran Northland politician says a single unitary council is exactly what Northland needs.

The Local Government Commission is proposing one council instead of four for the whole region with a second tier of seven community boards.

The union representing council workers says if the proposal goes ahead, it will take good jobs out of communities that need them.

The commission says there would be redundancies as a result of the re-organisation but does not say how many.

It says a unitary authority would cut about $5 million a year in council costs in Northland, but would not necessarily reduce rates.

Craig Brown, who's been mayor of Whangarei and chaired the Northland Regional Council till recently, says the change is inevitable.

He says the Commission's proposal is very close to the model the regional council put forward, and one he picked long ago had to happen.

However critics of the unitary proposal say parochialism will prevail and Northland electors will vote it down if it comes to a poll next year.

And a former Far North mayor, Wayne Brown, says he worries that the interests of the enormous Far North district will be downplayed when central Government deals with a regional centre in Whangarei, far to the south.

"It's very convenient for the Government - they can fly to Whangarei and feel that they've dealt with Northland. They don't have to bother about the small towns of the Far North, which will be forgotten.

"They don't have to bother about Maori - they can just fly in and fly out".

The Far North would also become liable for big debts incurred by communities further south, he says.