Election delays call on super-city option

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 16:14 27/06/2014

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The preferred super-city option for Wellington region will not be revealed until after the general election, the Local Government Commission has announced.

The commission said it wanted to "preserve the important distinction" between local and central government processes, and so would not announce any further details about amalgamation proposals in Wellington until after the election on September 20.

Greater Wellington chairwoman Fran Wilde said it was not an unexpected decision.

"I think everybody, no matter where they are on the issue, would like it to happen a bit faster, but frankly the general election just got in the way."

The commission said it was close to deciding on a preferred option for Wellington region, which could be to maintain the status quo.

The region's councils are divided on the issue.

Greater Wellington regional council and Porirua City Council are pushing for a single, two-tier super-city including Wairarapa.

Wairarapa is trying to keep its territory by merging their three councils.

Wellington is asking for a one-tier super-city structure that leaves Wairarapa out of it, and Kapiti, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt keen to keep the status quo.

The commission said it had held almost 100 meetings about the Wellington proposals and commissioned six detailed reports with more to come.

Adding to the abundant information are the reports produced by the councils themselves, some of which have conflicting information that needs to be worked through.

For example, the Wairarapa working group estimated the starting deficit for a single Wairarapa authority would be about $2 million, but Greater Wellington estimated it would be more than $11m.

Wilde said Greater Wellington was confident in its figures and did not know how Wairarapa came up with theirs. Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson said she did not know how the regional council had arrived at such a large figure and did not necessarily agree with it.

Patterson said it was "business as usual" for Masterton council and the commission's work had not impacted on the day-to-day running of the district.

"Let's just see what the Local Government Commission come up with and see what the people of Wairarapa want at the end of the day."

After the work is completed, the commission will either decide on the status quo or pick a preferred option for reorganisation and develop a proposal for consultation.

What's happening in Hawke's Bay?

Public hearings on the proposal to merge five councils in Hawke's Bay and create one unitary authority finished up a fortnight ago but consultation continues.

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The proposed Hawke's Bay Council, headquartered in Napier, would replace Wairoa District Council, Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Central Hawke's Bay District Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council and have a ward and community board structure.

The commission proposes 10 politicians govern the region, with six of nine councillors representing Hastings and Napier.

The Local Government Commission is now consulting stakeholder groups in the region, which may carry through until August, after which it could issue a new draft based on a different preferred option or issue no final proposal at all.

Some of the region's mayors expressed concern earlier this month that the proposal would make ghost towns of Wairoa and Waipukurau, with local government staff in the towns slashed and workers forced to move on, damaging communities.

- The Dominion Post

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