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TDC makes submission against amalgamation plan

August 21st, 2011

Tasman District Council has voted to oppose the proposed amalgamation of Nelson and Tasman Councils and has made and published its submission backing its opinion.

The council voted on August 11th, with nine councillors (including the mayor) voting for the submission opposing amalgamation and four (including Motueka's Jack Inglis and Golden Bay's Martine Bouillir, voting against the submission (and therefore supporting union).

The council's submission to the Local Government Commission is a long document which can be viewed in its entirety here on its website. Following are the introductory main points:

The Tasman District Council (by majority) opposes the implementation of the draft reorganisation scheme for the union of Nelson City and Tasman District as released by the Local Government Commission, dated 13 June 2011. It does so, on the basis that the proposed union:

  1. Will not better represent the nature and interests of the diverse communities within the Nelson-Tasman area. The draft scheme promotes a one size fits all model that is a backwards step for the communities currently represented by the two existing Councils.
  2. Unnecessarily promotes a single approach to community decision making and action across the Nelson and Tasman regions. Tasman District Council submits that such a new approach is not required to efficiently and effectively address key issues facing the two regions of Nelson City and Tasman District. Both councils already have effective processes to deal with any inter-regional issues.
  3. Is unlikely to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Council decision making and action as it is currently achieved. Instead the draft scheme promotes a large and cumbersome 17 person council, a number of additional community boards in communities that do not necessarily want them, and a single cumbersome bureaucracy.
  4. Is unlikely to improve the participation in the planning and development of the regions by their communities and other stakeholders. The draft scheme risks reduced participation at a local level due to the remoteness of the single decision making body. It also has the potential to adversely impact on the role and funding of community associations.
  5. Is unlikely to improve the representation of, and accountability to the residents of an existing district and an existing city. A single council dominated by urban interests will disenfranchise the various rural interests spread across the expanded district.
  6. Is unlikely to enhance the level of advocacy which is available to the two unitary councils working together. Two mayors properly representing their communities speak louder than one when advocating to central government and other nationally or internationally based organisations. It also provides for differences of viewpoints when issues may be beneficial for the Tasman district yet detrimental for a city area and vice versa.

Before proceeding to endorse any final scheme for a union of the two existing councils we expect the Commission to establish, on the basis of firm evidence, that:

  • there will be improved financial advantages to ratepayers by the union, and
  • the various communities of interest in both the city and the district will be better served by a union; and
  • overall the proposed union will result in better local government for the combined region.

The Tasman District Council submits that no such case has been established.

We cannot see sound evidence of any financial benefit to ratepayers. Despite a range of unsubstantiated claims from the petitioner and others there is no empirical evidence or research to justify claims of savings for ratepayers. The Commission.s sole justification for financial savings lies in the Strateg.Ease Ltd report, using flawed and misleading logic.

On the basis of Strateg-Ease report, a likely financial .benefit. seems to lie in an increased capacity to borrow. However, there is an inevitable cost to this. Combining the two councils. assets and borrowing more money will be no more affordable as it still has to be serviced by the same number of ratepayers. The other key benefit identified in the Strateg-Ease report is a reduced operating cost through management and staff savings. This is commented on elsewhere in the submission (pages 12 to 13) but we question the reliability of these perceived benefits. At the same time the Commission appears to have overlooked or ignored the extensive evidence that demonstrates the current high level of shared services between the two existing councils and the public commitment to continue to actively pursue further savings in those remaining areas where there could be economies of scale or improved critical mass. No union is required to make those savings.

The various regional communities of interest will not be better served by the union. The Commission.s report does not provide evidence of failure or missed opportunities as a result of having two councils instead of one. On the contrary, there is firm evidence that the present joint Regional Economic Development Strategy is working well with the BERL survey (and the Tasman District Council Communitrak survey) showing that the separate councils are succeeding in economic terms, with better than average growth rates and high rates of public approval.

The region is doing well, with the city looked after by a city council, and the district looked after by a district council, with each reflecting the priorities of their own communities and working together on inter-regional priorities. In such circumstances the Tasman District submits that the Commission must conclude that the draft scheme will not improve local government in either the city or the district, and that the draft plan should be withdrawn.

The second, lengthier part of TDC's submission addresses aspects of LGC's Draft Reorganisation Scheme.


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