Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A forced merger

Last year, National passed the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Act 2012. Among other things, the Act made it vastly easier to force local bodies to merge. Previously, any local body merger had to be approved by a referendum of those affected, and it had to win a majority in each local body. The Act removed that requirement, and now only allows a vote if forced by a petition of residents (who have to gather the signatures of 10% of the relevant electors within 40 working days - something which is almost certainly impossible).

Now we're seeing the results of that legislation, with a forced merger of five councils in Hawke's Bay. This years local body election results made it pretty clear that local residents do not want to be merged in this way, with anti-amalgamation mayors voted in in Napier, wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay. But the Mayor of Hastings wants it, and under the new rules, if someone files an application, the merger happens.

The good news is that the proposed boundaries of the merged council include a tiny part of the Rangitikei District, encompassing 20 voters. Getting a petition of 10% of them to force a referendum should be easy, and that referendum will see the merger proposal defeated. But its a stark warning of what is to come in Wellington and Canterbury. National has stacked the rules to allow their chosen cronies to destroy our local democracies. We cannot let that happen.