Lord mayor proposal 'patronising'

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 12:33 02/11/2012

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Wairarapa councils are shunning Sir Geoffrey Palmer's lord mayor proposal, labelling it ''patronising''.

A working party with representatives from Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa councils met this morning to consider a new proposal for local government in the region.

It follows the release earlier this week of an independent panel's report calling for a strengthened Greater Wellington Council headed by a lord mayor. Under that model, there would be six local councils - including one for the Wairarapa - with ''mayoral figureheads'' to consider local matters.

That flies in the face of the Wairarapa's expressed desire to become a separate unitary authority.

The panel was appointed by Greater Wellington regional council and Porirua City Council, and headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

The report stated that the panel recognised the ''strong local sentiment in favour of such local control but we do not recommend it'' because of the financial deficit the Wairarapa would have to fund if it split from the rest of the region.

Following this morning's meeting, South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples the working party was unhappy with the report's treatment of the Wairarapa, and they would be continuing down the path of becoming a unitary authority.

''The report is patronising ... it says yes, but we feel we know better and you need to be part of what is, essentially, a Wellington super city.''

While the financial gap was something they would have to consider, there were also opportunities to rethink the way business was done, she said.

However, Greater Wellington regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde said they would struggle to do that.
There was very little wriggle room to make cuts, she said.

''Regional council is a pretty skinny delivery model.''

If the Wairarapa wanted to be a unitary authority that was their choice, but they would have to convince the Local Government Commission that it was viable, she said.

The Wairarapa working party will now take its view to a regional hui next month, where the region's nine councils will try to reach agreement on the future of government structures.

Pitted against the lord mayor proposal and the status quo is a one-tier model being mooted by Wellington City Council staff.

That would see the region split into two unitary authorities - Wellington and Wairarapa - with up to 30 councillors.

Ms Wilde said she doubted a consensus would be reached, but she was hopeful there would be enough of a majority view  to put a proposal forward to the commission for consideration.

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Contact Katie Chapman
Wellington reporter
Email: katie.chapman@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @katiechapman28

- The Dominion Post

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