NAG pushes for referendum after commission snub

Bill Townson

The Northern Action Group (NAG) is pinning its hopes for a Rodney Unitary Authority on a commitment from New Zealand First for a binding referendum on the future of the combined Auckland Supercity.
NAG chair Bill Townson brought up the issue of the referendum after the Local Government

Commission (LGC) declined to consider a new feasibility report prepared by APR Consultants on a separate unitary authority for Rodney.

The APR report, which cost $20,000 and was commissioned by NAG, contradicts an earlier report by consultants Morrison Low that predicted that rates in an independent Rodney unitary authority would need to increase by 48 per cent, to cover an estimated first year deficit of $13.5 million.

It also predicted that the deficit would continue to rise over the ensuing 10 years.

By contrast, the APR report predicts anything from a $5 million surplus to a $5.5 million deficit in the first year, depending on the financial models used to make the predictions.

It concludes that a Rodney unitary authority is a “reasonably practical option” subject to the authority being committed to “financially sustainable business practices”.

Mr Townson says the APRs approach to modelling is far more credible and reliable than the narrow approach Morrison Low used with their report, which was based largely on the highly inefficient and wasteful Auckland Council.

“The ML approach is akin to preparing a business plan for a new shop in Warkworth using the cost structure of Harrods of London,” he says.

NAG submitted the APR report to the LGC for consideration on November  15 but a day later received an email from its chief executive, Dr Suzanne Doig, saying that the report had missed the deadline for submissions and would not be considered.   

She added that if the process were to be reopened, fairness and due process would require that all parties interested in the reorganisation application be given the opportunity to provide further evidence, and this was not something the LGC was prepared to do.

Mr Townson is hopes NZ First will honour its commitment to a referendum to keep the idea of a Rodney unitary authority alive.

Back in August, NZ First leader Winston Peters said the people of Rodney should be able to decide whether they want their district to remain part of the Supercity and if he was in the next government, he would make sure they got the chance by holding a binding referendum  

Mahurangi Matters was unable to confirm with NZ First whether a referendum was still planned.

Meanwhile, the LGC will release its decision on the preferred option for local government reorganisation in Rodney at a meeting at the Masonic Hall in Warkworth on November 30.  

The meeting will be led by commission chair Sir Wira Gardiner and lead commissioner for Auckland Geoff Dangerfield. Also attending will be Suzanne Doig.

The Morrison Low report, released in July, identified either the status quo or two Rodney local boards, under the existing Council, as the preferred options for Rodney.

The report dismissed the idea of a separate unitary authority.

NAG, as the original applicant, has been invited to attend the meeting in Warkworth, along with the other 38 groups and individuals who submitted alternative proposals.

If the commissioners opt for the status quo, the process will come to a halt. If they decide on a change option, then a draft proposal will be produced which will involve community consultation.


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