Costs rise for super-city panel
Wellington's super-city panel has been given another $80,000 in funding, but some councillors are concerned it won't stop there.
The extra funding was signed off at a Greater Wellington regional council meeting this morning after council officers said the initial budget of $241,000 would not cover additional consultation and another panelist.
The extra cost takes the bill from $241,000 to $321,500, of which Porirua City Council is contributing $30,000.
The regional council established the four-member panel to look at local governance options - including a possible merger into a super-city - for the region's nine councils. With the exception of Porirua, other councils opted not to join in the review, instead running separate consultations.
Upper Hutt regional councillor Paul Swain raised concerns that the extra $80,500 would not be the last time the regional governance panel would come asking for more money.
"This panel has had a checkered history and more and more funding has been dribbled out. I would say this increase will not be the last and there will be more.
"The $321,000 will not be the final amount requested. It is funding the regional council should not be spending."
While the intention and work of the panel was to be commended, the amount of funding dedicated to it should be more transparent, Mr Swain said.
"The difficulty is that if we had gone out and asked the public if we should spend $300,000 on this panel we would have got a bad reaction.
"The question must be asked if this is a good way to spend ratepayers' money. The answer is no."
Greater Wellington chief financial officer Bruce Simpson said the bigger budget was due to more consultation being carried out than originally anticipated, pushing up costs. The addition of an extra panellist, and the members doing longer hours than anticipated, added pressure to the bottom line.
Of the $80,500 extra required, $29,000 is for panellist costs, with the rest being for professional services. Panellists are paid at the commissioner rate of $475 a day set by the Internal Affairs Department.
Greater Wellington chairwoman Fran Wilde said she was comfortable with the extra funding, and the council was getting "value for money".
She was "delighted" with the progress the panel was making, and the level of consultation they were undertaking.
Compared with other commissions or inquiries, it was very cost effective. "I know they're working full blast, it's really very focused."
"For the work this panel is being asked to do, this represents good value for money," Mr Simpson said.
Wairarapa regional councillor Gary McPhee said Wairarapa constituents wanted more opportunity to have their voices heard, but the panel may not be the best way to do it.
"I voted against this funding hype initially and will do so again. Fifty per cent of the public in the Wairarapa want change but we've got to think about this funding much harder."
Kapiti regional councillor Nigel Wilson said if the panel needed to come back for more then the council should consider it closely.
"The task that they are undertaking is a huge task, they are putting our political institutions under the spotlight. They need to be thorough and can't be cutting corners."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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