5 December 2014
The Rotorua District Council may be in breach of legal requirements by describing itself by its new name Rotorua Lakes Council.
The council announced last week it was “amending” its name by replacing the word “District” with “Lakes”, so it would now be called Rotorua Lakes Council.
In a media statement, Mayor Steve Chadwick said the change to the operating name was an important and symbolic change. It followed recent development of a “Rotorua 2030” strategic direction for the district, and a major restructuring of the political and operating arms of the council.
“While the official name remains unchanged, the Rotorua Lakes Council brand will be rolled out over a period of time as items, such as letterheads and vehicle signage, come up for replacement,” the statement said.
The decision to amend the name was made at a council meeting on 27 November and the new name has been widely used in the media articles on the council.
For example, the council’s sudden move to create a “green corridor” through the inner city was reported in the Daily Post (4 December) as being “approved by Rotorua Lakes Council by a narrow margin".
However, The Mud inquiries suggest the word “District” has legal standing. The council does not have the authority to describe itself by a name without “District” in it.
The Local Government Act is prescriptive in how territorial authorities’ names must be used.
Section 23 of the Act covers “Description of local government”. This section includes the clause as follows:
3) A territorial authority that is a district council must be described as the “[name of district] District Council”.
(4) A territorial regional council must be described as “[name of region] Council”.
The question is then raised: If community signs, notices or council letterheads don’t have the proper name on them, do they mean anything at all? Do they have any legal standing at all?
If six out of 11 councillors want to change the real name, then they can seek approval from the government to gazette a change of name. There would then have to be proper community consultation.
Such consultation would need to include the title, as the title the council has given itself is not fully descriptive of the district. Maybe then some value can also be given to the interests of the city by adopting the name “Rotorua City and Lakes (District) Council” instead.