Local Government Reorganisation & Unitary Authority Project

This project has now closed.

At its meeting on 26 June 2013, the council resolved to initiate a reorganisation project, the desired outcome of which is the best promotion of the purpose of local government and improved economic performance, within the area of the Coromandel and the Thames Valley and, by extension, the Waikato Region.

With changes  to the Local Government Act paving the way for future amalgamations and with the Auckland Super City structure well entrenched, there's been much discussion about what this could mean for the Waikato and surrounding districts.

With proposals by other parties being developed, our council does not want to be unprepared in the event a proposal gains traction in Wellington and Hamilton which does not deliver for the Coromandel.

Preferred Approach

At TCDC we've already undertaken our own reforms, decentralising power back to our communities and reducing rates through a hard, honest look at costs, overheads and capital projects. 

It's a programme that does not need amalgamation to make happen.

We would prefer to continue seeking cost savings and efficiency gains via shared services with other councils without the need for district mergers and to retain local democracy via empowered community boards.

Our Proposal

However, if amalgamations are supported by our community, TCDC would see a unitary authority (the regional council and district council functions in one organisation) being created through the merging of the traditional greater "Thames Valley" region as preferable to a Waikato-wide structure and solution. 

A unitary authority makes sense, because:

  • The Thames Valley boundary closely follows the coastlines, ranges and river catchments and also has many iwi affiliations.
  • These districts also have a lot in common within their economies, which are full of small towns and communities facing the same raft of economic and social issues.
  • Many of the Councils in this wider area also have existing cooperation and shared services arrangements, so we are already working together.
  • A single" District Plan" would also be a lot easier given these commonalities and synergies.

Amalgamation Principles

The following principles will guide the way for deciding if any amalgamation proposal is supported:

  • Decisions about amalgamation boundaries should be driven by geography and common-sense, like river catchments, mountain ranges and community issues, demographics and economics.
  • We do not support a "Hamilton-centric" or "all of Waikato" amalgamation.
  • Any proposal will be evaluated against whether it is a better outcome than what can be achieved by effective shared services within the current Council structures
  • Any new structure must be a unitary authority, which will allow locals much closer access to "regional council democracy" and the environmental responsibilities within their own communities.  The multiple layers of plans and consenting needs to stop.
  • The Council should deliver core services (water, waste water, roads, rubbish services etc), not separate and unelected Boards of Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) and "Corporations".
  • Local Community Boards must be retained and empowered to make decisions about local community activities such as parks and reserves, boat ramps, halls, libraries and pools (as is the case in the Thames-Coromandel).
  • Our Community must support it, irrespective of the formula for level of support stated in the new Bill.
  • Once the Hauraki Collective Treaty settlement is finally reached, there is an opportunity for local iwi representation at community board or council level.

Project Plan

The council has engaged Morrison Low to investigate options to assist the council in determining what governance option is best for our communities. This work is to be undertaken at a level sufficient for incorporation into an application for reorganisation to the Local Government Commission.

This does not necessarily mean that the council itself will make an application at that time, or any time. Whilst taking such a decision, to informedly initiate local government reorganisation within and beyond the district is clearly available to the council, it is equally valuable for the council to be in a position to respond informedly in the event that another organisation makes an application for reorganisation.

The scope of work will generally incorporate:

  • financial modelling
  • governance and representation arrangements
  • efficiencies (high level)
  • communities of interest
  • economic catchments
  • water catchments
  • simplified planning