Steps sought to allow for Southern super council

Invercargill city councillor Wayne Harpur has asked Gore District Council to lobby for a law change to smooth the path for a possible amalgamation of Southland's four councils if it is deemed necessary in the future.

Mr Harpur was speaking to his submission to the GDC's Long Term Council Community Plan at the hearing relating to the plan held at the GDC chambers yesterday.

Mr Harpur said he was speaking as an individual and was seeking GDC's support in advocating a legislative change giving validity to whole-ofprovince binding referenda on local body amalgamations.

Under the current legislation, each of four councils would get a vote and if one voted ‘‘no'', it would not proceed, Mr Harpur said after the hearing.

Invercargill City Council had already resolved to request a change through the Minister of Local Government to ensure any legislation resulting from the Royal Commission on Auckland also contained enabling provisions for areas outside Auckland to conduct whole-of-province referenda.

Mr Harpur described the proposed change to the laws as an ‘‘enabling legislation'' at the LTCCP submission hearing. Mr Harpur said he had been advocating for some time that Southland needed to map out a governance structure that took the province forward.

However, he stressed at the hearing he was not asking for GDC to endorse his vision but merely to lobby to have legislation put in place so that if the province did decide it wanted to go down that track, then it would be possible.

"Southland is currently sitting on a powder keg of opportunity and needs a governance structure with a regional rather than a district mandate," Mr Harpur said in his submission.

There were several large projects being investigated in different parts of the province, Mr Harpur said after the meeting.

These included the possibility of Solid Energy building a plant to convert coal to diesel in the Gore district, the various wind-farm developments such as the Kaiwera wind farm, and a silicone operation at Pebbly Hills, Mr Harpur said.

Not only would these large projects bring huge benefits to the province but they would also raise some social issues that would have to be managed, he said.

He believed one local authority would bring about a united approach that could manage all development.

"With vision and leadership, we can achieve one rating authority, one district plan, one consents authority, one set of bylaws, one council, one Southland," he said in his written submission.

Southland had 136 elected representatives region-wide, Mr Harpur said.

 

-- Margaret Phillips

"Even if we do not count the community boards, we still have 52 elected representatives and four talking heads representing the province," Mr Harpur said in his submission.

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks questioned how the Gore district would retain its voice if Southland had one local body, given that Invercargill had domination in terms of population.

Mr Harpur said it was no different than the present scenario with Gore and Mataura.

There would be a need to make sure the lines of communication were kept open "right the way down to the grass roots", he said.

After the hearing, Mr Harpur said community decisions should be made by the people closest to that community.

Cr Neil Harvey questioned how rural ratepayers would fit into a ‘‘whole Southland'' authority.

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