Wairarapa councillors warn over 'rush' to alter governance

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 13:39 01/02/2013

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A group of Masterton councillors are challenging their own council to rein in a "rush" towards a new governance structure.

The first round of feedback on the future governance of Wairarapa closes on Monday, with a working party made up of representatives from Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils backing a unitary authority.

But some Masterton councillors say the process is being rushed, with key financial information yet to be given to ratepayers.

Their call echoes that made recently by Federated Farmers and local iwi, but the region's three mayors insist there is no alternative but to push ahead.

Masterton councillor Gary Caffell said those driving the process needed to "take a step back". The change was too big to rush things.

A report on the financial impact of a range of governance options had been commissioned by the working group and was expected to be published at the end of next month, he said.

"They should wait until they've got their own facts and figures, and that gives the people the chance to compare one against the other."

Councillor Doug Bracewell said the process "should not be hurried".

"There's not enough information to take to the people, and we've got to put personal agendas aside and recognise that, whatever we do, we have to have the people's interests in mind."

Councillor David Holmes said he did not "want any stupid decisions made because we're in such a hurry".

In a joint statement yesterday, the three Wairarapa mayors, Garry Daniell, Ron Mark and Adrienne Staples, said a regional working party had already announced that its application for a region- wide super-council would be ready to submit to the Local Government Commission in April.

As such, Wairarapa needed to work quickly to ensure "alternative options" were researched and considered by the public, so they could be submitted within the commission's 20-day timeframe.

"Many people do not seem to understand that the wording of the Local Government Act gives us virtually no control over the timing," the statement said.

"And it would be irresponsible for the councils' working party to just sit on their hands and leave Wairarapa's fate in the hands of others."

Monday's feedback deadline was not the end of the consultation process. "There will still be further consultation with the public."

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- The Dominion Post

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