Representing spread crucial

Photo: Getty Images
Cromwell. Photo: Getty Images
How to effectively govern a region almost as sparsely populated as Mongolia — that will be an issue for those engaged in reorganising local government, Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan says.

Mr Cadogan compared the Central Otago District Council with Mongolia while discussing the local government review being carried out by a Government-appointed panel, due to make its first report in September.

He said yesterday ‘‘everything is on the table’’, including even the possibility of an Otago-wide unitary council taking on both district and regional council functions, as occurred in Auckland in 2010.

‘‘Are we going to see a move towards unitary authorities, are we going to see a move away from having a government arm towards essentially an enforcement agency with regional councils?’’

While the review panel had only begun work, Mr Cadogan believed there would be ‘‘significant changes’’ by, probably, 2028.

The thing he was most worried about was how a bigger organisation would engage with Central Otago people.

‘‘I know how hard it is for me to get around as mayor to my almost 10,000 square kilometres of people.

‘‘It’s not easy. Our population density in Central Otago is only slightly higher than Mongolia’s.’’

He believed having personal contact between residents and those who represented them mattered ‘‘100%’’.

‘‘You’ve got to get round and meet the people that you represent otherwise you can’t represent them, and the tyranny of distance is bad enough at 10,000sq km.’’

Former mayor Malcolm Macpherson speculated in the Otago Daily Times the Maniototo might become part of Dunedin City, the Teviot Valley part of Clutha, and Cromwell part of Queenstown Lakes.

And, he could foresee the CODC no longer existing in 10 years.

Mr Cadogan said the review had a ‘‘completely blank canvas’’ and he did not see any council, aside possibly from Auckland, ‘‘surviving in its present form’’.

‘‘Everything will change, everywhere.

‘‘This Government hasn’t shown a great fear of making really big moves when it thinks it’s the right thing to do.’’

Mr Cadogan said rural councils needed to communicate ‘‘very strongly’’ their unique characteristics.

‘‘The population density and the gap in between is certainly one of those.’’

mark.price@odt.co.nz 

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