Super-city consultants' fees soar

19:30, Jul 03 2014

Consultants are the winners in the tussle over Wellington's political future, earning more than $1 million from the region's ratepayers in the past three years.

The three Wairarapa councils alone spent about $800,000 on consultancy fees to dispute Greater Wellington Regional Council's view that the district could not afford to secede, Masterton District Council chief executive Pim Borren said.

Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils engaged several consultancy firms to write a broad report on the future of the region as part of their application to the Local Government Commission.

"It wasn't just looking at amalgamation. We started with a blank page," Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said.

Wairarapa also began considering amalgamation earlier than other councils, contributing to its high spend, Patterson said.

Lower Hutt spent about $350,000 on super-city consultancy, Wellington City Council $40,000, Upper Hutt $28,500, and Kapiti Coast spent part of its total $120,000 to $150,000 on consultants. Porirua and Greater Wellington councils did not engage consultants.

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Another $500,000-odd was spent across the region on surveys, public meetings and advertisements. Greater Wellington spent $279,000 funding the Wellington Local Government Review Panel, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, and $55,000 contributing to a regional working group.

Few councils included their own staff's time in their amalgamation expenditure.

The Lower Hutt council lacked the staff resources to do its research in-house, chief executive Tony Stallinger said.

"Did we need to spend it? We felt we did. We got such a strong reaction [to amalgamation] from our community."

Political differences across the region prevented councils saving money by hiring consultants together, Stallinger said.

Greater Wellington's research was "full of rhetoric and anecdote", while Lower Hutt's was scientific and found no evidence of savings through amalgamation.

All councils were given the opportunity to help choose panellists for the regional review, but only Greater Wellington, Porirua and Kapiti opted to participate, Greater Wellington chairwoman Fran Wilde said.

 

TOTAL SPENDING

Upper Hutt City Council $44,788 – $1.11 a resident

Hutt City Council $450,000 – $4.58

Kapiti Coast District Council $120,000 to $150,000 – $2.44 to $3.05

Porirua City Council $69,500 – $1.43

Greater Wellington Regional Council $333,943 – 71 cents

Wellington City Council $160,000 – 84 cents

The three Wairarapa councils collectively spent $803,604 – $20.10 a resident. 

The Dominion Post