Opposition bound to flow this evening

COLIN WILLIAMS
Last updated 12:21 05/09/2012

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Upper Hutt Leader

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Former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer can probably guess what views and opinions he will receive from Upper Hutt people this evening, Wednesday, September 5, when he chairs a public meeting on local government reform.

The two-hour meeting of the "independent" Local Government Review Panel (6pm, Hapai Building) will see Sir Geoffrey and fellow panel members Sir Wira Gardiner and Bryan Jackson into the lions' den in an Upper Hutt city where its residents have already made their views against the idea of any forced amalgamation well known.

The panel, set up under the auspices of the Wellington Regional Council, was envisaged to involve all councils but only Porirua City opted to be part of an initiative regarded with some suspicion.

The panel, calling for public submissions by September 21, will report back to its commissioning councils with a recommended option for reform in late October.

This will come ahead of the formal reform debate which is expected to be triggered late in the year by Government legislation which could allow for changes being in place before the next round of local body elections.

Upper Hutt, like the other councils, instead opted to carry out their own consultation with residents, and the feedback has provided a resounding "No" to any concept of a super-city or any change to council boundaries.

With a record-breaking 1400 submissions recording a massive 83.5 per cent anti-amalgamation response there might be little room for Sir Geoffrey and his peers to move.

This evening's meeting is touted as explaining "the other side" of the reform debate, "focusing on the needs of ratepayers and residents" and encouraging them to have a say.

"This panel has no vested interest in any outcome other than one that advances the interest of the people who live [in the region]. We want as much public feedback as possible."

The panel, including Sir Geoffrey, had a non-public meeting with Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy and councillors late last month.

They told the city representatives they had already received a clear view from Upper Hutt people and them being presented with copies of all 1400 submissions would also have delivered the same message.

Mr Palmer reportedly told Upper Hutt's councillors that of all the cities in the region, Upper Hutt probably had most to lose.

It is a message which may well be reinforced this evening.

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- Upper Hutt Leader

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