Local Government Amalgamation

Sorry for being late to blog about this, but the Government has announcedthat it will hold a Royal Commission (the membership of, terms of reference of, and date to report back still to be decided) into the local governance of Auckland. Meanwhile, National list MP Mark Blumsky has introduced a Bill (the Auckland and Wellington Local Government Reform Bill) to establish task forces for both cities to look into local government for those cities, report back by 2010 and have referendums to see if those plans will be implemented. I welcome the Royal Commission of inquiry, and hope it produces good results. Same with Blumsky’s Bill, which deserves to go to select committee.

 On the issue of amalgamation and local government, it is an important issue, and a good argument can be made that we don’t need 7 councils just for Auckland, and 85 territorial authorities nationwide. Fewer councils will mean fewer staff and bureaucracy, ability to obtain economies of scale, and a greater ability to work together at the regional level. On the minus side is less local representation, the possibility of a ‘tyranny of the majority’ type problems in some cases. There is also no conclusive proof big is better. In fact Owen McShane, a resource management expert, has labbled the tiny Newmarket Borough Council (which existed before it was amalgamated into Auckland City in 1986) the best run council he has ever seen. For me the issue should be looked at experts in the area, and not from an ideological framework. The Royal Commission and Mark Blumsky’s Bill are both good steps in the right direction, although I would extend the royal commision or taskforces to look at the whole country, as there are a number of rural councils where amalgamtion could be useful (i.e. in kaikoura district there are only three thousand people, should it be merged with the Hurunui district (population 10 000) to form a ‘North Canterbury District’) and in terms of economies of scale possibly more gains from amalgamation than the already large Auckland councils.

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