21 Jul 2016

Hundreds of submissions on West Coast amalgamation

6:35 pm on 21 July 2016

Close to 700 submissions on proposed council reorganisation on the West Coast have been submitted to the Local Government Commission.

Buller Municipal Chambers

Buller Municipal Chambers Photo: RNZ/ Tracy Neal

Residents were presented with several options aimed at streamlining services during a public consultation process, including amalgamating the current four councils into one.

The four councils - the West Coast Regional Council and the Grey, Buller and Westland District Councils - currently look after roads and services that stretch the same distance as Wellington to Auckland. They do so from a rateable base of just 23,000 properties.

A recent survey conducted by West Coast-Tasman Labour MP Damien O'Connor showed 58 percent of respondents against the idea of one council, 26 percent agreed with the idea and 16 percent did not know.

A former Westland District councillor and pro-amalgamation lobbyist, Anthea Keenan, told RNZ News recently that the consultation process was about finding a way to better manage costs for ratepayers. She said a small pool of them was bearing the cost of too many duplicated services.

Median incomes on the Coast hover around $30,000 a year.

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn understood the community's preference was more towards looking at shared services. Council amalgamation would be a big step for the region, because of concerns over centralisation and loss of representation, he said.

The commission said earlier if there is enough support for change, it could call for options on how the region's councils could be structured or how services are provided.

It could also put forward specific options identified by the consultation and invite further feedback.

Commissioner Janie Annear said they were now in the process of analysing the feedback, with a summary expected by the end of August.