Council considers amalgamation move

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 07:37 05/12/2012

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Wellington City Council will decide this week whether to join a working party with the Kapiti Coast District, Porirua City and Greater Wellington regional councils, with the aim of submitting an amalgamation proposal to the Local Government Commission early next year.

The move comes as the three Wairarapa councils are seeking public feedback on a proposal to form a unitary authority and the Hutt councils also consider forming a separate council.

In a report that will be considered by Wellington City Council's strategy and policy committee tomorrow, council officers recommend joining the working group.

Greater Wellington and Porirua put out the invitation and have been advocating for a two-tier format, with a region-wide council and a second level of local councils or boards, while Wellington officers advocate a single-tier model.

But the report says there are enough similarities between the two models that Wellington should join the working party.

"Officers recommend that, subject to a number of conditions . . . the committee agrees to join the working party to explore how these similarities might be drawn together to form the basis of a region-wide proposal."

With Wairarapa and Greater Wellington indicating last month they would be putting in proposals early next year, the possibility of change in governance structures was "significantly high", and by not joining, Wellington could risk becoming "politically isolated on a regional issue", officers warn.

The recommended conditions include the invitation being extended to the Hutt and Wairarapa councils.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said she supported joining the group, but was "sceptical" about whether it would reach a consensus. She would move at tomorrow's meeting that Wellington join the working party.

She supported all councils being invited, saying there was likely to be more than one proposal for the region and it was essential councils continued to talk.

Greater Wellington chairwoman Fran Wilde was pleased to see Wellington was open to joining the working party.

However, she "did wonder what would be the point of inviting into the working groups councils that have rejected the concept of a single entity for the region . . . Anyone is welcome to work with us, as long as they're realistic about what is viable."

With Wairarapa preparing a proposal, other councils would be called on to respond, and had to be prepared.

After two years of discussions, it was time to move forward, and she hoped a proposal would be ready by the first quarter of next year.

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Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett agreed other councils would be welcome to join the group, but said the focus would be on getting a regional vision with as many councils as possible behind it.

South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples said the Wairarapa councils "welcome any opportunity to sit around the table and discuss things, but it would be on the understanding that it is with the proviso that our councils have agreed our preferred option is the Wairarapa unitary authority".

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy said the Hutt councils had agreed to look at three unitary authority models, and would continue to communicate with the region's other councils.

THE OPTIONS

 

One tier - advocated by Wellington City Council officers. One unitary authority governed by up to 29 elected councillors and a mayor, but excluding Wairarapa representatives.

Two-tier - advocated by Greater Wellington regional council and Porirua City Council. Based on the Palmer report, which suggested a two-tiered structure, with a mayor heading a strengthened regional council and six smaller councils providing local services. The lord mayor title has since been dismissed by the councils.

Wairarapa going alone - advocated by the three Wairarapa councils. A separate unitary authority. The council is currently consulting, with an intention to form a proposal to put to the Local Government Commission next year.

Three unitary authorities - Being investigated by the Hutt councils. Given Wairarapa's position, Lower and Upper Hutt council officers are weighing up a single Hutt Valley council. If Wairarapa also forms a unitary authority, that would leave the remaining authorities to form a "metropolitan" unitary authority.

 

- The Dominion Post

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