Why didn't the LGC cite any case studies in its proposals or associated documents?
Why this question is important:
Case studies are a recognised form of support material for a proposal. They convey where there has been success before, where there has been failure and often the success factors are identified.
Can case studies be easily sourced?
A simple Google of "local government amalgamation case studies" will bring up a range of documents immediately.
If they are so easy to find, why aren't they referenced?
Firstly, the LGC process for reaching the point where it issued a Final Proposal to amalgamate the three Wairarapa councils was a different process to the standard improvement process.
Secondly, opening up references to case studies would cause people to refer to the case studies and to other case studies in which there are some rather troubling statements.
An extensive review of the experience of local government amalgamation, whether sector wide as with recent New Zealand, English, Australian State and Canadian provincial experience, or focused on individual authorities as with Halifax, is at best equivocal on the proposition that amalgamation will produce benefits in terms of reduced costs and/or improved services.
The reasons include the normally unanticipated but common impacts of factors such as alignment of salary scales, incompatibility of systems or the need to upscale, staff morale, and the disturbance associated with major organisational change.
Of particular importance for the current debate in New Zealand is what the literature has to say about economies of scale as a rationale for local government amalgamation. In general, the research argues that larger local authorities tend to be less efficient than medium-sized or smaller authorities.
More importantly, although achieving economies of scale matters, they do not provide a rationale for local government amalgamation.
- The Future Governance of the Auckland Region, A discussion paper on amalgamation: lessons from international experience Prepared by the Local Government Centre AUT University March 2008
Looking through a number of case studies and reports on local government amalgamations there is a wide range of findings and views on the success and effectiveness of amalgamation for improving efficiencies, costs and better local government.
In the interests of an open, transparent consultative process references to case studies should have been included in the documents published by the LGC.
Some links to associated material
REVIEW OF NEW ENGLAND STRATEGIC ALLIANCE OF COUNCILS - lessons to learn from failure