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Current council format under threat in shake-up

Current council format under threat in shake-up
Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown says there is a lot to consider in the The Future for Local Government review, including the possibility of his own council in its existing state being no more.

Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown knows a proposed shake-up to local Government could see the Ashburton District Council discontinued.
But that all depended on what the Government does when the process is completed next year, Brown said.
The latest local Government draft review report, the second of three produced by an independent panel, has proposed 29 recommendations around boosting engagement and changes to the voting system, Māori representation, funding, and structures of local government.
The 261-page report details many aspects that suggest how the council currently operates is set to change – whether it be minor or major.
“It depends what the Government does, whether they enact on it or just put the document on the shelf,” Brown said.
“There are bits of the report I can agree with and others that need some further investigating as to what exactly it means and the effect it will have on councils.”
The report offers examples – not recommendations – for what a new local Government structure could look like.
The examples are open to some interpretation, and Brown’s analysis was that the council could take over functions from Environment Canterbury, rather than ECan managing council functions.
There are recommendations for Mana Whenua representation, by appointees or elected Māori Ward councillors, to produce stronger Tiriti-based partnerships in governance.
Brown said it was an area likely to be considered in the council’s next local representation review next year where the number of councillors, wards, Māori wards, and community boards would all be up for discussion.
One aspect of the draft of particular interest to Brown was a proposal to start charging rates to Government property.
“Schools, hospitals, police stations, and DoC land, which we have a huge amount of, would be able to be rated on which would certainly change the way we collect rates in Ashburton.
“It could be a big chunk of money.”
The report also proposed changes to the voting system, lowering the voting age to 16 and extending council terms to four years.
The consultation on the draft is open until February and Brown said the Ashburton District Council would submit once they have had time to digest and discuss it in-depth.

Structure redesign analysis

The Future for Local Government review panel have developed three examples of potential new structures – all of which offer ramifications of note for Ashburton.

Example one:
This would involve a shift to a unitary council for a region, accompanied boards and committees. It would be responsible for delivering all the local government functions. But a minimum population of between 70,000 to 100,000 would be needed.
That would leave the Ashburton District out on its own because of its population of 36,300. It could be forced to merge with Selwyn or the South Canterbury councils.
The shakeup would likely see the end of Environment Canterbury and its powers shift to new region councils. In that scenario, Christchurch City (390,000 population) and Selwyn (79,000) would remain as they are, while Waimakariri (67,000) could merge with Hurunui (13,000) and Kaikoura 4100) as a North Canterbury council.
Ashburton could then be merged in a southern Canterbury council, with the Timaru District (48,500), as well as Waimate (8300) and Mackenzie (5500) forming a unitary council with one mayor, councillors from each, and the former councils would take on some form of subsidiary role.

Example two:
There would be local and regional councils with separate governance. In Canterbury, it would be similar to the existing system except ECan would have a regional mayor elected.

Example three:
Would be a combined authority where local councils retain a mayor and representatives. But they would sit on a combined regional authority with neighbouring councils, with a combined mayor elected by the region.

  • By Jonathan Leask