Single Wairarapa council a step closer

Change inevitable, say mayors

WALT DICKSON
Last updated 08:44 16/05/2012

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A major shake-up of local government in Wairarapa looms with a high-level report recommending a single council.

Whether that be a single Wairarapa Unitary Authority or a Wairarapa District Council is still to be determined, with the report concluding that more detailed analysis is needed on the costs, benefits and risks of the two options.

The report, by consultant Morrison Low, was commissioned by a joint working party of the mayors, deputy mayors, councillors and chief executives of Carterton, Masterton and South Wairarapa district councils. It was released yesterday after being presented to a meeting of all councillors.

The Morrison Low report analysed the advantages, disadvantages and risks of five options for future Wairarapa governance - enhanced status quo, shared services delivered by one or more separate council-controlled organisations, a Wairarapa District Council, a Wairarapa Unitary Authority, and a Greater Wellington Unitary Authority (super-city).

Each option was assessed against criteria developed after a joint vision and aims for the region's future were adopted by the three councils following consultation with 22 stakeholder groups representing iwi, business, farming, environmental, social, health, sporting and arts interests.

Under the district council option, a Wairarapa District Council would be formed by amalgamating the three Wairarapa councils.

All existing regional council functions would continue to be carried out by a Wellington regional council, assuming such an organisation still existed under any new Wellington local government structure.

The Wairarapa unitary authority option would see the three Wairarapa councils form a single council that was responsible for all regional functions and services within its area.

In a joint statement Carterton mayor Ron Mark, Masterton mayor Garry Daniell and South Wairarapa mayor Adrienne Staples said local government change in the Wellington region was inevitable in the short to medium term because legislation to be introduced into Parliament this month would require more effective and efficient councils.

"Wairarapa communities of interest now have the chance to be masters of their own destiny and take part in deciding the best local government option for their future," they said.

"No decisions have been made and we've still got more work to do in understanding the cost implications of the various options. Once the three councils have had a chance to discuss the report at their meetings over the next week, we will agree on the next steps which will include a process to hear the views of Wairarapa residents."

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The three Wairarapa councils have increased their co-operation and shared services in recent years with initiatives including a combined district plan, a shared waste management contract and joint rural fire and civil defence operations.

The report follows a 2010 governance review jointly commissioned by the Wellington Mayoral Forum, which includes the three Wairarapa mayors. Consultation on that review by the Wairarapa district councils last year found there was no appetite for a Wellington super- city that included Wairarapa.

The full report is available at council offices and libraries and on council websites.

- Wairarapa News

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