Should Rodney District Council become a unitary authority?
As quoted in an internal report for the Christchurch City Council titled Procedural Requirements for Creation of a Unitary Authority
- The regional and district plans required by the Resource Management Act 1991 can be developed and combined into a single plan. This would reduce potential administrative duplication and sets out in a single document all the rules that govern the management of resources in a unitary authority’s district. Having both regional and district planning functions would enable a unitary authority to establish plans that integrate the environmental, social, cultural and economic outcomes sought for the district and to assess the influence of one or more of these factors on the others.
- Unitary authorities are able to establish a ‘one stop shop’ for resource management advice, processing consent applications and monitoring.
- A unitary authority would be directly responsible for the preparation of a regional land transport strategy and regional public passenger transport plan for its district. It would be able to set its own priorities for transport, roading and public passenger transport services based upon an assessment of local needs and to seek funding for these directly from central government.
- Ratepayers might see a unitary authority as an advantage in that they would have to pay one local authority rate each year.
- Exclusion of a local authority from a regional council’s jurisdiction could be viewed as being detrimental to the overall role of the regional council and have an impact on regional planning, environmental management and transportation planning.
- There is potential for a reduction in resource expertise occurring at both the local authority and the regional council. The unitary authority would need to employ specialists for regional council functions and there may be some difficulty with this. Likewise, the ability of the regional council to maintain its current level of expertise in overall environmental operations may be affected if its fee and rating base is reduced.
- If the proposal to create a unitary authority was to proceed along existing boundary lines, the issue of two authorities having joint responsibility for a catchment may arise.
- The unitary authority would need to enter into negotiations with a restructured regional council for a continuation of transport services that may transverse the regional boundary.
- Ownership/operation of any regional parks located within the local authority’s district would be expected to transfer and become the responsibility of the new unitary authority. This may have an effect on rates given the cost of operating these parks. Regional parks are protected in perpetuity from sale or other disposal pursuant to section 139 of the Local Government Act 2002.
The report to the Rodney District Council came to the conclusion that in terms of the legislation as currently enacted for the reorganisation of local authorities in New Zealand, a proposal from the council to the Local Government Commission to obtain unitary authority status was unlikely to succeed.