The new government with the Labor Party and the Center Party promises in the government platform that the large counties of Troms and Finnmark will be allowed to become two counties again.
– I am very happy with this. This is in line with what the voters and residents think, says county mayor of Troms and Finnmark, Ivar B. Prestbakmo (Sp).
There was a lot of opposition behind the merging of the two counties, but on 1 January 2020, Troms and Finnmark were forcibly merged. But it did not take more than five months before the county council applied for a divorce to the Ministry of Local Government. This is the application the new government has now promised to approve.
– Must work hard
County councilor Bjørn Inge Mo (Labor Party) is also happy to finally have it confirmed.
– Now I will inform the county council about this at the next meeting and then we will start the work, says Mo.
Mayor of the former Finnmark city of Hammerfest, Marianne Sivertsen Næss (Labor Party), breathes a sigh of relief. She fears that if a certain county had succeeded in being one large county with the population density in Troms, it would have led to centralization.
– Finnmark is in a situation where we have a negative population development, so now we have to work very hard to bring about growth, says Sivertsen Næss.
Where Sivertsen Næss believes that the dissolution will strengthen Finnmark as a county, Troms mayor in Lyngen municipality, Dan Håvard Jonhsen, believes that Finnmark will have a tough time.
– For Troms it is a good thing, but I doubt that Finnmark will come out strong, says Johnsen.
He believes that Troms has better finances and therefore better preconditions for driving social development than Finnmark wants.
– It’s just a reality. But the government has adopted this, so we have to deal with it and hope that the Finnmark people find a good solution for themselves.
Nor is Tromsø mayor Gunnar Wilhelmsen in flames over the dissolution.
– We have to live with it, but we lose speed, says Wilhelmsen.
By that he means that while Troms and Finnmark have only been arguing about being dissolved, other merged counties have already set a direction.
This municipality can create major problems
Even though the government has now given the green light, and the county municipality will start work on the dissolution, this is not the end of the saga of the county boundaries in the north.
In Alta, they have been thinking about staying in Troms, and not getting back to Finnmark.
– We want to see what is best for us, said Alta mayor Monica Nielsen (Labor), to NRK in February.
Nielsen now says that the municipal council has been waiting for the government negotiations to be completed, before they decide what to do. When the case comes up for hearing, Alta will provide its input.
– Then we will have a debate in the municipal council before that, but now it is too early to say as nothing has been clarified, says Nielsen.
If Alta wants to stay in Troms, Kautokeino must also reconsider staying in Finnmark, according to mayor Hans Isak Olsen (Kautokeino permanent resident list).
– For us, it is the case that if there is a reversal, we are part of Finnmark. But if Alta is considering staying in Troms, Kautokeino must also look at the same possibility. Alta is of great importance to us, says Olsen.
Loppa mayor Stein Thomassen also says that they must make an assessment if Alta stays in Troms.
– If both Alta and Kautokeino go over, it makes up a third of the population in Finnmark. Then we will also be satisfied with carrying out an analysis of what will benefit us, says Thomassen.
County mayor Prestbakmo is clear that Troms and Finnmark must first and foremost be split up, before Alta can possibly start moving the county boundaries.