Upper Hutt Leader
Upper Hutt residents are open- minded about possible council amalgamations, but wary their city's voice could become lost in the crowd.
That's the consensus among three of the speakers at an information evening last Wednesday organised by Experience Upper Hutt and the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce at Expressions.
The fourth, a Massey University local-government lecturer, said it was already beyond any local influence because the Government would impose whatever form of council representation it wanted.
Mayor Wayne Guppy said most of the 60 present were looking for information and there was a number of questions about what might be good for Upper Hutt and what might be good for the region.
"People are very aware that they need to put in a submission one way or another," he said.
"People who have been to meetings - read articles in the Leader - are starting to be realise that being a passive observer is not an option."
Silence will be interpreted as consent to whatever the government wants to do, he said.
"It will be taken as a vote for change; any form of non- participation is agreement."
Regional councillor Paul Swain said most people seemed to be looking for some change in the form of local councils, but not a radical one.
People were clear that they did not want an Auckland super-city style re-structure with an all- powerful, centralised council with very weak community boards.
"People are getting to grips with the options but I think one of the clear things that came through was the fear that in any form of restructure, Upper Hutt's voice is potentially under threat."
There was also concern about other councils' debt levels and how they could be redistributed.
Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins said people were generally nervous about the speed of change, concerned that they weren't as informed as they would like to be and that they might not have an adequate say.
"I think people generally wanted to know what the options were, what the process was. People are open-minded but nervous."
However, Massey University senior local government lecturer Andy Asquith said it was too late to have any influence.
"Like it or not we going to have some form of amalgamated local government in Wellington," he said.
"The question is what shape that takes."
Central Government held local government in contempt, he said.
"It boils down to the fact that there is only one law-making body in New Zealand, Parliament."
Higher calibre candidates were needed to serve as councillors and they needed to reconnect with their constituents, he said.
Submissions to Upper Hutt City Council on local governance close on Friday, July 20.
- Upper Hutt Leader