Super-city plans ignore Hutt, says mayor

KAY BLUNDELL AND KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 12:24 28/02/2013
Celia Wade-Brown
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ
Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

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Lower Hutt mayor Ray Wallace says the Local Government Reform Working Party is ignoring the voice of the Hutt Valley and relentlessly pushing ahead for a super-city with variations on the same theme.

Mr Wallace supports strong community representation at the council table but said smaller stand-alone authorities would be preferable to one unwieldy super council.

"The voice of the community would be lost. We have continued to have discussions with all local authorities in the region and have repeated our position - we are not joining a working party who are not prepared to accommodate the views of people living in Lower Hutt," he said

The majority of the community, through polls and questionnaires, had told the council they wished to stay within existing boundaries while pushing for more shared services, he said.

"If we are forced to amalgamate, they would prefer one united Hutt Valley. Our people have told us loud and clear that a single unitary council - a super-city - is not something they want. We will need to have a closer look at the options and will provide considered feedback but is unlikely there will be any change in our view," he said.

Wellington would have the biggest council in New Zealand if either one of the working party's super-city options for the region goes ahead.

The local government reform working party is proposing two options: one with a mayor and 29 councillors, the other with 22 elected members including a mayor, plus community boards.

Auckland Council is now the biggest in the country, with 20 councillors, the mayor and 21 community boards.

The working party's proposals were discussed at a Kapiti Coast District Council workshop this week.

The next step is for councils to decide on their preferred options and consult their communities. They do not have to pick one of the two options, and are free to recommend a third if they wish.

Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett said reform was inevitable, and he rejected suggestions that a larger number of councillors would be too unwieldy.

"If one council for the region becomes a reality, I am in favour of a higher number of councillors on the larger council to begin to ensure every community in the region has adequate representation."

However, former Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast said yesterday that too many councillors would be unmanageable.

Though having more councillors addressed concerns from people worried about the loss of democracy, it could also mean mean less independence for councillors.

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"The more you have, the more unmanageable it is, and there has been a move with time to try to reduce the size of councils.

"People form political blocs . . . because it's so unmanageable."

Greater Wellington Regional Council chairwoman Fran Wilde said she supported the two-tier model.

"The number of councillors is not the relevant issue. The relevant issue is: Are communities going to have a say over relevant issues?

"People are really interested in what goes on in their backyard. It is important they have a say in that."

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

Wellington City Council and Kapiti Coast District Council are also involved, but councils in the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa have not joined the initiative, preferring to form separate unitary councils than be part of a super-city.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown stressed there would be a lot of conversations with the public before any model was decided.

Last month, Ms Wade-Brown said there was little appetite for a super-city, but there was a need for greater co-operation between councils. Reducing the existing number of councils in the region from nine to three or four made "a lot more sense".

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy believed the two-tier system could become cumbersome. "The key to its success is to have local representation that does not become too cumbersome, unwieldy.

"Like every organisation, everyone wants to be doing what the top people are doing. It would be easier with a one-tier system, [but] each city and community would need to believe they were represented fairly," he said.

THE OPTIONS

TWO TIERS

One unitary authority for the Greater Wellington region.

One mayor for the region, and 21 councillors elected by wards.

The wards would be Lower Hutt (4 councillors), Kapiti (2), Porirua (3), Upper Hutt (2), Wairarapa (2), North-Central Wellington (5), South Wellington (3).

Eight local community boards based on the seven wards, but with North-Central Wellington split into two.

ONE TIER

One unitary authority.

One mayor for the region, and 29 councillors elected by wards.

The wards would be the same as the two-tier model, but with more representatives.

THE PROCESS FROM HERE

Each council in the working party will now need to agree to consult on the working party's two options.

Information will be released in March, and consultation will be held through April.

Once feedback is analysed, each council will decide whether to be part of a joint application, based on a preferred option, to the Local Government Commission.

Contact Katie Chapman
Wellington reporter
Email: katie.chapman@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @katiechapman28

Kay Blundell

Kapiti reporter
Email: kay.blundell@dompost.co.nz

- The Dominion Post

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