1 Feb 2017

Another round begins in West Coast council reorganisation

7:35 am on 1 February 2017

Plans to tailor a local government model for the South Island's West Coast have moved to the next stage, with residents now able to suggest how the councils should be reorganised.

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Photo: 123RF

Last year the Local Government Commission received close to 700 submissions on how to streamline the services of four councils, responsible for an area the same distance as Wellington to Auckland.

Consultation so far has revealed majority support for merging some of the region's council services. Nearly half said a full merger between some West Coast councils was a good idea.

The commission said the reorganisation proposal was triggered in 2015 by an application from two West Coast residents, supported by a petition.

Commissioner Janie Annear said the application was for a unitary authority for the West Coast - meaning one council for all the West Coast undertaking both regional and district council functions.

The four current councils - 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, from a rateable base of just 23,000 properties.

The consultation last year was to get an understanding of the level of support for change, Ms Annear said.

The commission is now calling for alternative reorganisation applications, and other proposals for change to the region's local government arrangements. It described "alternative applications" as other suggestions for local government reorganisation which may relate to all or to one or more parts of the West Coast area.

Tony Kokshoorn

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn Photo: AFP FILE

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn said there were other options, including the possibility of a merger of perhaps two of the four councils.

While it appeared to be a drawn-out process, he did not think the various stages had the potential to confuse the public, or thwart the process.

"The commission has told us it would be a lengthy process and that alternative models were always on the cards.

"They've told us time and again they want to be thorough and are investigating all angles. It is complicated and frustrating, but it is bureaucracy and it does take time so we have to be patient and wait it out."

Examples of options might be that the Westland and Grey councils could unite, or all four councils could amalgate into one unitary authority, Mr Kokshoorn said.

"It's about getting the right model for the coast. The problem here is the councils cover from Karamea to Haast which is the same distance as from Wellington to Auckland, so it is a big area administered by four councils, with over 30 councillors, plus four mayors and four chief executives," he said.

The commission said the deadline for proposals is March 15. If it decided there was more than one "reasonably practicable" option, it must then identify its preferred option and if that is not the status quo, it will then prepare a draft reorganisation proposal and present it to the West Coast community for further consultation.

*Further information available at the [www.lgc.govt.nz Local Government Commission website] or in hard copy at council offices, libraries and some i-Sites throughout the West Coast.