Super-city recommended for Wellington

ROBERT KITCHIN & HARRIET PUDNEY/Stuff.co.nz

Goodbye Wellington, hello Greater Wellington – the capital is set to become a super-city.

Goodbye Wellington, hello Greater Wellington – the capital is set to become a super-city.

The long-awaited draft recommendation from the Local Government Commission has found that the Wellington's nine councils should unite into one council named Greater Wellington Council.

READ: Recap of our live web chat with GWRC chairwoman Fran Wilde and Hutt mayor Ray Wallace

Wellington, it's going to be a super-city.
FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington, it's going to be a super-city.

READ: Mixed reaction to the proposal

READ: A recap of our live blog

Key points of the proposed model are:

* One mayor elected at large heading a council made up of 21 members from eight wards – Rongotai, Lambton, Ohariu, Porirua-Tawa, Kapiti Coast, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Wairarapa.

That council would be responsible for high-level, region-wide matters.

* Each ward would then also have a local board with between six to 10 elected members which would be responsible for local decisions.

* Two councillors would also be appointed to each board.

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* There would also be a Maori board and a Natural Resources Management Committee.

* The first Greater Wellington Council would be elected at the next local body elections in 2016.

* It would establish a new integrated rating system, which would come into force in 2019. In the interim existing separate rates schemes would remain in place.

*  Rates would be decided on a property's capital, not land, value.

* The main council office would be in Wellington.

* There would be area offices in Porirua, Paraparaumu, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Masterton. Smaller service centres would be in Waikanae, Otaki, Martinborough, Greytown, Featherston and Carterton.

* A small section of Tararua District that is currently within the regional council boundary which transfer to the Manawatu-Wanganui region.

Today's decision marks a significant step after years of debate about whether or not Wellington should, or need to, amalgamate.

The issue came to a head last year when the three Wairarapa councils put in a bid to break free from the region and form a separate unitary authority.

Greater Wellington regional council also put in a proposal for a model that is close to the option being recommended today, while Wellington City Council advocated for a single council with 29 councillors combining all of the region's councils except those in the Wairarapa. Hutt Valley meanwhile became strong advocates for the status quo or, failing that, its own unitary authority.

 Commission chairman Basil Morrison said a unitary authority with local boards was the best option for the region.

"Local boards ensure the local is preserved in local government."

The model is similar to the country's first super-city, Auckland. However, the commission said the Wellington boards would have greater power than their Auckland counterparts where the power of the boards had been limited after many functions were given to council controlled organisations instead.

The Wellington boards' responsibilities will include management of local facilities such as parks, libraries and sports centres and local services such as rubbish and recycling, transport and economic development. There will also be a ward councillor appointed to each board to ensure a level of connection between the two levels of government.

The decision for change reflected the "limitations, inadequacies and challenges" of the current model where there were regional problems requiring regional solutions.

The commission ruled against a separate Wairarapa council, stating that the district would not be able to handle the financial pressure and was too closely connected to the rest of the region to separate.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

* This is a draft decision and is now open to public feedback, which will close on March 2.

* Public submission hearings will then be held.

* Following submissions the commission will decide whether to make a final recommendation for amalgamation.

* If that happens the public can petition for a referendum by having at least 10 per cent of voters in one affected area call for one. The smallest area is in the Tararua where there are 11 rateable properties.

* If a referendum is held it needs more than 50 per cent support to make the new council a reality. If it fails the status quo remains.

* Without a referendum the commission's recommendation will go ahead.

 - Dominion Post

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