Amalgamation redux – faltering at the first hurdle

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water – the amalgamation debate was recently sighted off the coast of Nelson.

More surprising is the fact it has been sighted less than 18 months after a public referendum had overwhelmingly decided the issue for Tasman residents (see earlier post). Clearly showing that there is little (if any) evidence of community support for amalgamation.

In my opinion, community support (or the lack of it) is probably going to be a major obstacle for any application given the recent referendum result in Tasman. It’s also the first hurdle of several obstacles. For that reason I am surprised any lawyer would have made such an application, knowing of such a hurdle, and with knowledge of the recent public referendum.

The relevant obstacle is set out in Clause 8(1) of Schedule 3 of the the Local Government Act 2002. Clause 8(1) states:

(1) If the Commission decides to assess a reorganisation application, the Commission must first be satisfied that there is demonstrable community support in the district of each affected territorial authority for local government reorganisation in the affected area.

To suggest recent local body elections some how show support for amalgamation appears to overlook all the other issues that Tasman and Nelson local body elections were concerned with.

In Tasman, debt and the amount of rates residents have to pay (in comparison to other regions) were the two main issues in the 2013 election. Further, one could also suggest (rather strongly), that the mayor’s re-election was actually a clear endorsement of the anti-amalgamation position that he had adopted, in contrast to the positions of other mayoral candidates, who had made compelling cases for change, but were defeated.

As with many things in life, timing is everything. And the timing of this application is far too early to clear the first hurdle.



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