Council staff back capital super city
On the eve of Sir Geoffrey Palmer's report on Wellington's local government future being published, city council staff have come out in favour of a super-city.
Wellington City Council officers have advised councillors that a single authority for the city, Hutt Valley, Porirua and Kapiti is the best option for the region. Wairarapa would form a separate council.
But the model has been dismissed as undemocratic by Sir Geoffrey, whose independent panel's findings are published this morning.
He would not reveal details, but said the report would include a proposal that was "absolutely, fundamentally different".
Under the council officers' single-tier proposal there would be one unitary authority governed by up to 29 elected councillors and a mayor. Under the present arrangement, excluding Wairarapa, there are 87 councillors, five mayors and a regional council chairwoman.
The recommendation follows consultation the council carried out earlier this year, looking at four options for the city, ranging from the status quo with more shared services, to one council covering the whole region. Consultation showed 77 per cent of people supported change of some sort, with the two most drastic options the most popular.
The council has also been considering single-tier models used in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It flew over a former Brisbane Council chief executive to talk about the benefits of a single tier.
Chief executive Garry Poole said yesterday that the council had ruled out the first two of the four options as unworkable, and the preferred model was two unitary authorities.
While regional governance was working now, there was an opportunity to improve it and find efficiencies, he said.
Officers had ruled out adopting the Auckland model, which has 21 local elected boards beneath super-city level.
Mr Poole said that was unwieldy, confusing for the public, and would make decision-making more difficult and time-consuming. One tier was more effective. "The concept of one table is kind of overwhelming. It's simpler, it's smarter, and by having one there you're more responsive to constituents and it's clearer and simpler and smarter for them."
Having 30 elected officials was the maximum currently allowed by law, and would mean one councillor for every 14,000 people. But that number was not final.
He also envisaged councillors having "ward offices" in their constituencies, rather than being based in the Wellington office.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the simplicity of the model was appealing, but it would have to be implemented correctly.
"You'd have to have enough elected members to make sure that you get enough representation."
Sir Geoffrey said the council had not adequately consulted on the Australian model. It was completely unsuited to New Zealand's different government structure, and "not sufficiently democratic" .
Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett said his main concern was whether a single tier could achieve adequate levels of representation. A hui will be held late next month to try to reach a regional consensus.
ON THE TABLE
Current situation v Wellington City Council proposal
Now: Eight city and district councils and one regional council Proposal: Two unitary authorities, Wellington and Wairarapa Now: 87 councillors, not including Wairarapa Proposal: Up to 30 in council Now: Eight mayors and one regional council chairperson Proposal: Two mayors Now: Six council offices Proposal: One main office, with "ward offices" providing support for councillors Now: One councillor for each 14,000 in Wellington City, compared with 1:4000 in Porirua
Proposal: One councillor for each 14,000
The Dominion Post