More time for regional merger talks

A working party of four Wellington councils has pushed out its time for finalising an amalgamation proposal by another month.

The Local Government Reform Working Party had planned to finalise a proposal by April, but now it was more likely to be the end of May, chairman Ken Douglas said yesterday.

The working party was set up by the Greater Wellington regional council and Porirua City Council to negotiate a joint amalgamation proposal to be presented to the Local Government Commission. It had previously planned to lodge an application next month, but is now aiming for April.

Wellington City Council, Porirua City Council and Kapiti Coast District Council are also involved, but councils in the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa did not join the initiative.

Now, the group would carry out public consultation for two months on options, Mr Douglas said.

The group had planned to consult on a preferred proposal, but would instead consult on both a single council, or a two-tiered system, with one council and a second local level of governance.

"The detail of those options haven't been concluded yet . . . It's really about ensuring that the consultation process is actually able to cover the two broad principles of options." Any proposal would include the Wairarapa and Hutt Valley councils, he said.

That is despite the councils in those areas continuing to investigate establishing two separate unitary authorities.

The five Wairarapa and Hutt mayors had a summit this week, chaired by Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace.

They did not want to feel pressured by the rest of the region, he said.

"Sharing a common bond with the Wairarapa is a show of unity at a time when there is pressure from some local authorities for a super city that is not supported by our communities."

Mr Douglas said he appreciated that position, but that the working party believed any proposal to the Local Government Commission had to include the whole region. "Rightly or wrongly, we have a view that the Local Government Commission will not accept a proposal that splinters what's already there."

The Dominion Post