Mike Hosking: It's time we merge our local councils

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Tue, 16 Mar 2021, 4:46PM
Former Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell has called for Bay of Plenty councils to be merged. (Photo / File)
Former Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell has called for Bay of Plenty councils to be merged. (Photo / File)

Mike Hosking: It's time we merge our local councils

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Tue, 16 Mar 2021, 4:46PM

Tenby Powell is keeping up the good fight.

He’s the former mayor of Tauranga. Having moved back to the region, he won the election only to find small town New Zealand at times, especially at council level, can be introspective and spiteful. He ended up quitting and such was the mess around the chamber, commissioners have been put in.

Looking on from the side-lines but still clearly passionate about his region, he  has made the appeal for those commissioners to consider merging local councils so they can then actually get on with running the place.

In the Powell plea is the plight of local body politics: we are hopelessly over governed.

Think about the Western Bay of Plenty: it’s not big, it’s a small region in a small country, and yet it has three councils. Tauranga City, Western Bay District, and Bay of Plenty Regional.

There are only 300,000 people in the whole region, 130,000 in Tauranga, which means two councils cover the other 170,000.

There are over 70 councils for the whole country. Numerically it’s absurd and goes along long way to explaining why so many communities have so many problems: you’ve stretched the talent pool to ridiculous proportions, you’ve got hobbyists running the place.

My great hope is that the commissioners do a sensational job and show that expertise actually beats democracy.

The trick to progress is realising what doesn’t work. Democracy is a wonderful thing, especially when you don’t have it, but like most things you can have too much, and that’s our plight.

Having a say is good in theory but the cold hard truth is it depends who is having that say.

We don’t run own lives on democratic principles. We don’t raise our kids that way. We hire experts for tax and building and legals and fixing our cars and educating ourselves and patching ourselves up medically - and yet we hand over our country and cities to whoever puts their hand up.

Run the list, north to south, east to west, towns and cities all over this country are buggered because of do-gooders out of their depth. Auckland to Invercargill, Wellington to Christchurch: acrimony, delays, cost blowouts, and stagnation.

Tenby is right: Merge, merge, and merge some more, and get some adults in charge.