Council wary of threat to water meter control

Last updated 08:48 29/01/2013

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Kapiti Observer

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If the region splits into three then Kapiti could lose direct control of its soon-to-be metered water, an amalgamation report by Kapiti Coast District Council reveals.

The possibility has seen Kapiti working on a back-up plan for a standalone supercouncil, senior advisor Alison Lash said.

''Should a three city model be successful ... joint CCOs [council controlled organisations] or committees would be necessary to manage the large cross boundary core functions ... it is highly unlikely that Kapiti's water supply would be left outside of such an arrangement.''

Debate sparked by the controversial metering proposal last year revealed the ''strong wish'' that the community retain control of water, Ms Lash said.

''The council has clearly indicated CCO control of water is unacceptable both to it and the community.''

A council controlled organisation is a company that delivers a service for a council, which controls 50 per cent of its votes, or appoints 50 per cent of directors or trustees.

Ms Lash said Kapiti is researching a unitary authority option as a contingency in case of the three-city proposal.

A unitary authority would absorb all local government functions, including water and regional council services, within the district's boundaries.

The report by Ms Lash to councillors meeting Thursday outlines progress of a working party of Greater Wellington Regional Council, Wellington, Porirua and Kapiti on amalgamation.

The working party agrees there should be a single unitary authority with two tiers for the region - it is ''desirable'' to include Wairarapa but not necessary.

A three-council region is supported by the Hutts, and Wairarapa councils, and would see them become separate unitary authorities, along with a combination of Wellington, Porirua and Kapiti.

Meanwhile the working party envisages two scenarios for an amalgamation timeline: both would see a final proposal released by the Local Government Commission early 2014, triggering a poll.

If the proposal wins majority support then a transition body would be created.

It would either aim for the launch of the new councils at the next elections in 2016, or spark early elections in 2015, with a four-year term for the new local bodies.

In December, Kapiti joined the working party to thrash out a joint submission for amalgamation.

Upper and Lower Hutt refused to join - instead looking at creating a single Hutt unitary authority taking over the regional council responsibility. Wairarapa is eyeing a similar plan.

The split follows legislation passed in December, easing amalgamation.

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The legislation allows any person, group or council to propose amalgamation to the commission.

A petition by 10 per cent of enrolled voters, gathered in a 60-day time frame from any of the affected council areas in a final commission proposal would trigger a poll.

Opponents would then need to gain at least 50 per cent support in the poll to sink the proposal. Costs would be split over the affected councils, apportioned on voter numbers.

Ms Lash said the commission would be unlikely to find the three city option is the economic ''optimum'' for the region.

The western councils and Greater Wellington want an overarching council for the region, with local boards or community boards for constituent areas.

The working party aims to have a proposal ready for submission by late April, Ms Lash said.

- Kapiti Observer

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