Unitary council an option for Wairarapa

Wairarapa already works together, as show by mayors Adrienne Staples, John Booth and Lyn Patterson promoting a joint ...
PIERS FULLER/FAIRFAX NZ

Wairarapa already works together, as show by mayors Adrienne Staples, John Booth and Lyn Patterson promoting a joint broadband initiative WAIconnect.

Last year's super-city idea was rejected, but the process has encouraged further discussion on how changes in local government could strengthen the Wairarapa and deliver better-value infrastructure and services, say John Booth, Lyn Patterson and Adrienne Staples.

As mayors of the three Wairarapa district councils we all agree that local decision-making in local government is paramount. And by local, in this instance, we mean local to the Wairarapa.

Our three councils have been working on developing shared services for many years as we look to deliver better value for money for our ratepayers. This goes back earlier than the start of the amalgamation debate. With so much in common throughout our rural provincial region, it does not make sense to have three of everything if one will save time, effort and money, as well as provide the desired outcomes. Our Combined District Plan is the highest-profile example and more recently we have saved our ratepayers more than $1 million on a joint roading contract.

So it is fair to say that as local mayors we will continue to support initiatives investigating change as long as that change improves the effectiveness of local government in Wairarapa; and retains local democracy and decision-making.

While the super-city proposal is off the table, the reorganisation process is ongoing and in this we are working with the Local Government Commission which has adopted a new more collaborative approach.

As a broker and enabler it has helpfully reset the debate to allow us to start thinking about a wide range of council arrangements, including innovative solutions that are not currently available. We also welcome the positive role being played by Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Of course, we all recognise just how important our relationship with the rest of the Wellington region is, how our future prosperity is closely tied to it and vice versa, and we will continue to work together with all the mayors and the regional council chair on joint wider initiatives – public transport for example – but we are equally committed to local solutions to local issues.

Accordingly, we have been begun focused discussions within and between our councils on exploring options for a local government model that recognises and builds on Wairarapa's unique character.

We believe this is an opportunity to think outside the square and investigate the delivery of services and infrastructure in new, more cost-effective ways – ways that reflect the fast evolving role and influence of technology, demographic changes and the environment in our lives and workplaces.

A number of potential options have been suggested and are being worked through. These range from the status quo to a new single district council alongside the existing regional council, to a full unitary council.

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Along with the Commission, we are seeking public input through a series of Wairarapa meetings. We want to talk through some of these ideas, and get feedback and suggestions on how to involve the wider public of the area.

We hope people come along and lend their voices to shaping the future of the Wairarapa.

Lyn Patterson is Mayor of Masterton District Council; John Booth is Mayor of Carterton District Council; Adrienne Staples is Mayor of South Wairarapa District Council.

Public meetings to discuss the future shape of local government in the Wairarapa will be held at the following venues and times:

Masterton District – Frank Cody Lounge, Municipal Buildings, 64 Chapel Street, Masterton – February 16, 7pm-9pm

Carterton District – Auditorium, Carterton Event Centre, 50 Holloway Street, Carterton – February 17, 7pm-9pm

South Wairarapa District – Martinborough Town Hall, Texas Street, Martinborough – February 23, 7pm-9pm

Next week: Why growing Wellington's economy requires regional collaboration.

 - The Dominion Post

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