Hutt councillors unanimous against amalgamation

JESSY EDWARDS
Last updated 14:36 20/05/2014

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In its latest move to block the proposed creation of one council to cover all of Wellington, Hutt City councillors have voted unanimously to petition against forced creation of super cities.

The vote was held at a special council meeting last Tuesday evening.

The councillors voted to ask Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), a lobby group for councils, to take up the task of petitioning for no council amalgamation to occur "against the wishes of a majority of potential voters within the boundaries of any substantially affected local authority".

The council's proposal would require a change in the law.

Under current legislation, the entire region being considered for amalgamation votes on the move in a single referendum.

Mayor Ray Wallace said the current law could see smaller area's voices drowned by larger areas.

"[Residents in] one of the bigger councils could outvote the smaller ones."

Hutt City Council's community consultation had found that more than 80 per cent of its constituents were against amalgamation, he said.

LGNZ's role was to support councils, who generally were not interested in the super-city model, he said.

"We want them to work with Government to show them the error of their ways."

He said he would be questioning their $60,000 annual membership to LGNZ if the remit were not brought to the table at their annual meeting in July.

Cr Angus Finlayson said it was a matter of freedom and local democracy.

"Eighty per cent of the people want freedom, and that's what we're fighting for."

However, pro-amalgamation group Better Hutt Valley spokesman Lou Gardiner said the hastily arranged proposal had come "out of the blue for residents".

"It appears that the council wants to change the rules half- way through the process to suit themselves.

"Everyone's known for a long time what the proper process is, but now the Hutt City Council has decided it doesn't like what was democratically agreed by Parliament."

But Lower Hutt deputy mayor David Bassett said if the group were interested, they should have been at the discussion.

"It was a publically advertised meeting."

The meeting comes two months after Wallace was accused of rallying allies at a secret meeting in Taupo, where concerns about amalgamation were raised with select New Zealand mayors.

Councils in Rotorua, Central Hawkes Bay, Napier and Wairoa have passed the same proposal for tweaking the law on amalgamation voting, making up the five councils required to take the matter to LGNZ.

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