Minister must come clean on amalgamation

The Minister of Local Government is telling porkies to its supporters on local government amalgamation, says Labour’s Local Government spokesperson Su’a William Sio.


National’s arrogance on amalgamation was all too clear when the Minister shut down Napier’s deputy mayor at a recent meeting when she questioned amalagamation. Unless Paula Bennett publicly declares that her government isn’t going to be pursuing amalgamation, people have no reason to believe her


“Let’s not forget that this Government changed the rules when they amended the Local Government Act in 2012 and mandated the Local Government Commission to effectively invite a free for all applications for regional amalgamations.  The push for local government amalgamation came from National using the Auckland supercity model as the example. The 2012 amendment to the Local Government Act 2002 permitted any person, body or group to apply for local government amalgamation and made it more difficult for citizens to oppose these applications.


“Prior to this change the law guaranteed to all citizens the right to a say in a binding ballot over any proposed reorganisation or amalgamation of their local council, and this right was removed by National.


“These changes opened up the door to forced takeover of local governments and local democracy.  It took away the right of citizens to have a say in the size and shape of their local council.


“Most local government practitioners would know that the one size fits all approach does not wash, nor does it make sense that big is better or big is cheaper. Look at the significant cost challenges that Auckland, under its supercity structure is having to face. 

“It would be appropriate for the Minister to declare that all amalgamation proposals before the Local Government Commission should be put on hold until after the election. 

“Labour has consistently said that while we are not opposed to amalgamation, the key for us is ensuring that local democracy and local participation are not lost. No region should be forced to amalgamate without its citizens being involved in making that decision. 

“We already have significant examples where the regions are already working together in the provision of shared services without being forced to amalgamate,” said Su’a William Sio. 

“It is of concern to many in the local government sector that the current process being advocated by the National government for forced amalgamation is ad-hoc, has no clear and coherent framework or strategy and risks the creation of a ‘dogs breakfast’ for local government in New Zealand and our regions.”