By Don Good, Waikato Chamber CEO
The Local Government Review panel has published its report. It cannot be left on the shelf to gather dust. Local government has been starved of funds and given too much extra responsibility with no cash to fund it.
Their recommendations must be implemented.
Central government should always ensure local government is prudent and uses taxpayer funds wisely. Accordingly, there needs to be an ongoing process of reasonable amalgamation to get economies of scale, funding and regionally connected projects such as three waters sorted.
The report recommended territorial authorities need to move on amalgamation and not have it imposed on them. With two models suggested, central government should put the responsibility and impose a timeline on councils for getting the reform process underway.
We call on councils to be open and transparent with their electorates and share the two amalgamation options with wide voter debate over the next year.
Historically, Waikato Mayors and the Waikato Regional Council Chair have turned their backs on any suggestion of amalgamation, despite it being the region that has the most number of local councils and thus is the region that most suits some form of amalgamation.
It won’t be long before voters and central government will be looking for real action on the benefits of cooperation and cost savings.
With Three Waters legislation about to bite, the status quo is out the window. Waikato Mayors with imagination, leadership and within a spirit of cooperation need to work out how to merge in some way, shape or form.
We have used the ‘Turkeys do not vote for Christmas’ line many times. There are two and a half years until local body elections. Which Mayors in the Waikato have the courage to start real amalgamation conversations?