Super city working party 'less than honest'

WALT DICKSON
Last updated 13:06 10/04/2013
Fran Wilde
FRAN WILDE: Not all decisions would be made in Wellington

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Repeated claims that Wairarapa would become a poor cousin of the Wellington region if it were part of a super city are untrue, according to one of the region's most influential politicians.

Greater Wellington Regional Council chaiwoman Fran Wilde says the combined Wairarapa councils' Working Party is being "less than honest" in their statements about impacts of a super city were Wairarapa part of it.

The Wairarapa Working Party, which consists of representatives from each of the three councils as well as the mayors and CEOs, wants Wairarapa to be a separate unitary authority.

The regional council, as part of a multi-council working party, believes the Wellington region will be better served in the future as a single council with either one or two tiers.

Under the single level proposal there is one council with a single tier of decision making made up of a mayor elected across the region and up to 29 councillors elected from local wards.

Councillors represent regional and local interests at the decision-making table.

Under the two tier model there is one council with two tiers of decision making - a governing council and local boards. The council has a single administration, with one chief executive supporting both level of elected representatives. The governing council consists of a mayor elected across the region and up to 21 councillors elected on a ward basis. There seven or eight local boards.

The Wairarapa Working Party says this option would wrest control of important resources and decisions off Wairarapa.

But changes to the Local Government Amendment Bill last year give Local Boards far greater power, according to Ms Wilde.

"It is completely untrue to say that all the decisions will be made in Wellington," Ms Wilde told a public meeting in Masterton on Monday night.

"Honestly, there is a lot of protection in what Local Boards can do and I don't think people here [in Wairarapa] are being told that."

Ms Wilde says there are major challenges facing the whole of the Wellington region and nowhere are they more relevant than in Wairarapa. A changing demographic, ageing population and significant environmental and economic challenges make it critical for Wairarapa to be included in a Wellington- region wide council model.

The Wairarapa Working Party has cited examples of Unitary Authorities working effectively in Gisborne and Tasman. However, Ms Wilde says she wouldn't hold any of them as an aspirational model for Wairarapa.

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"They are tiny and they are not working," she says.

Many people in the audience on Monday night were critical of the Wairarapa Working Party.

Russell Carthew says the public has been "bombarded with a load of inaccuracies" from the Wairarapa Working Party.

"I can't believe the rubbish that we are being fed," Mr Carthew said.

Ms Wilde says it is vital that the community has its say on all proposals being put forward.

Submissions close on May 3. Forms are available at regionalreform.org.nz.

Meanwhile, a report into the affordability of a Wairarapa Unitary Authority is to be released tomorrow.

The Wairarapa Working Party commissioned Wellington-based accountancy firm Martin Jenkins in February to carrying out the assessment.

- Wairarapa News

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