The boundaries of Napier and Hastings are "silly", says Napier mayor Bill Dalton.

Napier City Council’s plan to expand its boundaries to include rural townships currently under the control of Hastings District Council will be considered by the Local Government Commission early next month.

Napier mayor Bill Dalton has confirmed Commissioner Sir Wira Gardiner will visit the region on November 2 to discuss the idea of Napier expanding its boundary to include the area north of the Tutaekuri River all the way to the southern boundary of Wairoa.

Dalton said about 7000 residents “or thereabouts” living in townships like Puketapu, Puketitiri, Eskdale and Whirinaki – which currently fall within the Hastings district – that already "identified" with Napier, would become new city ratepayers if the plan went ahead.

“People that live in Whirinaki and Eskdale already identify with Napier: they have Napier library cards, and when they go to town they go to Napier and yet they pay their rates to Hastings. It’s the same for the people that live at Puketapu and Puketitiri.”

Dalton said the change would correct the “silly” and “stupid” boundaries drawn up 25 years ago in 1989, when an expanded Hastings District Council was created following the merger of the Hastings City, Havelock North Borough and Hawke's Bay councils.

I’ve been just inundated by people immediately north of Napier from places like Eskdale that have said, thank god someone’s doing something about it.

“It’s silly on whole variety of different levels.

“It’s silly at the level where Hastings sends their contractors through Napier, to north of Napier, to mow the lawns at Eskdale park or Waipatiki when it could be done much more efficiently from Napier."

“This is not something that I would expect if it does progress, to progress overnight. Don’t forget it’s now 25-odd years since what I consider was an error of judgement was made and it doesn’t haven't to be fixed in 25 minutes."

Nor was the idea something his council had “suddenly seized upon” following the vote against amalgamation in Hawke’s Bay.

Dalton said his council and anti-amalgamation group DAD (Dedicated and Democratic) had both submitted boundary changes to the local government commission in early 2013, after it accepted  A Better Hawke’s Bay’s proposal for reorganisation of local government in the region, which was rejected by voters in a poll last  month.

“So it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while,” Dalton said.

Nothing formal had since been submitted to the commission since then – all his council had done was successfully ask for a meeting to discuss the boundary expansion plan, Dalton said..

All we are saying is ‘let’s have the discussion’ – if there’s support for it we’ll take it further,  if there’s no support for it, we won’t,”’ Dalton said.

Dalton rejected the plan was an attempt by Napier to boost its income by snaring more large, valuable lifestyle properties within its rating base. The change would ensure the costs of providing services like roads in rural areas was more equitable, he said.

“There’s always been criticism in Hawke’s Bay that Napier - being a purely urban electorate - doesn’t pick up its fair share of the costs of rural roads and that sort of thing… and this would more evenly balance out the costs across the province,” said Dalton, who expected the change would impact on his city’s balance sheet if it went ahead.

“I’m not against debt – it all depends on what the debt was for and what the debt repayment programme was.”

Dalton acknowledged there were ‘issues to work out” with concerned rural community boards and he could “totally understand” Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule’s “misgivings” about the idea.

Yule was reported as saying the change could be "undemocratic" as, unlike the recent defeat of amalgamation,  the boundary changes could be approved by the commission without a vote or poll.  

Mayor Yule could not be contacted for comment but Hastings district councillor Wayne Bradshaw believed the proposal was "worth discussing”.

“The amalgamation debate raised the issue of communities of interest and it is clear that people living north of Napier have a much greater affinity with Napier as the closest large urban city,” he said,

The fear of a voiceless future by some rural residents “mainly a handful of worried rural community board representatives”, could be addressed by ensuring that the current level of representation carried through, he said.

“As always, the devil is in the detail, so communities need to be consulted and involved in discussing representation, services and costs,” Bradshaw said.

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