Plea to ditch changes to Bill

Tim Shadbolt.
Tim Shadbolt.
Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt says he hopes the parliamentary select committee considering changes to local government legislation will realise they have made a mistake and ditch the amendments.

He and three others —  Invercargill City Council (ICC) chief executive Richard King, strategy and policy manager Melissa Short and ICC solicitor Warwick Cambridge — flew to Christchurch yesterday  for a 15-minute slot before the local government and environment committee.

Its members are hearing submissions on proposed amendments to the Better Local Services legislation, which Mr Shadbolt and others say would allow major change to be imposed on local communities, including amalgamation, even if there was little or no community support.

"The message we want to leave them with is that they have made a mistake, that it’s going to cause disruption to a local government sector which employs 39,000 people," Mr Shadbolt said.

A public poll run by the ICC indicated respondents were overwhelmingly opposed to the amendments, he said.

He said the ICC delegation would  voice concerns over the inadequate consultation with the local government sector about the wording of the Bill and that it was drafted in haste.

Amalgamation created uncertainty and anxiety, and "stops progress and new ideas in its tracks" for a time, he said.

If the proposed amendments remained in the Bill and the law was changed, Invercargill could potentially find itself part of a single South Island local authority, he said.

Even if it become part of a single Otago-Southland authority, which he said would be a "modest" sized council compared to the amalgamated council created in Auckland, Invercargill ratepayers would find themselves paying for facilities and infrastructure upgrades in places like Dunedin and Queenstown.

The proposed amendments could be "a defining issue in the next general election", Mr Shadbolt said.

"The majority of mayors I have met have been National Party members, so the [National] Government is going to be upsetting their own rank-and-file members, which isn’t a wise thing to do, usually."

Select committee deputy chairwoman, Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie (National), would also have "an incredibly difficult choice" to make, he said, as "she has to be loyal to her party and the view of her party, or she has to be loyal to the views of her constituents, and that’s always a heart-rending choice for career politicians, which is what she is hoping to be".

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