'Super-city' rattles confidence

The super-city debate appears to be one of the reasons Wellingtonians are less confident their city is heading in the right direction.

Just over half of the 516 Dominion Post readers questioned in a readers' survey said they thought Wellington was heading in the right direction, compared with 70 per cent at the same time last year. And of those who were "definite" the city was going the right way, the number had dropped from 19 to 9 per cent.

The proposed super-city appeared to be one of the bigger drivers of the change. The future of the Wellington region's governance was under the spotlight for much of last year.

An independent review panel chaired by Sir Geoffrey Palmer suggested two tiers, with six local boards working under a region-wide Greater Wellington Council.

There are other suggestions on the table too, such as a Hutt Valley's two councils becoming one, Wairarapa's three becoming one, and a single Wellington council reaching as far north as Kapiti. A single-tier council covering the whole region is also being suggested.

"We seem to be moving towards a super-city, without anyone bothering to ask the people of Wellington what they want," one person wrote in the survey, while another said: "Not interested in one large council." But others seemed more willing to move towards greater ties, or even amalgamation.

"We probably need to combine some of the services between the cities in the Wellington area," one said. Another said: "Needs to move to consolidation of existing local authorities."

For the first time since 2010, the proportion of those opposing a super-city dropped below half to 49 per cent. Last year the number was 58 per cent.

However, those firmly in favour amounted to only 28 per cent - a small rise on previous years. More than 20 per cent were unsure.

When asked what form of amalgamation people favoured, a Wellington, Hutt City, Upper Hutt, Porirua and Kapiti amalgamation was favoured, with Wairarapa's three councils also merging.

However, with only 23 per cent voting for this, it was hardly a clear win and no great departure from previous years' results.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said uncertainty about amalgamation was understandable "in the light of contradictory messages from the Auckland experiment".

Wairarapa becoming a single unit seemed sensible and well supported but, with Hutt residents wanting autonomy, a super-city was not attractive, Ms Wade-Brown said.

"A chorus of positive but diverse voices still sounds stronger than one voice for the region.

"That chorus should include business, Maori, young, old, born here and elsewhere, manufacturing, tourism, arts and science, artisan and hi-tech - and all the glorious combinations within that list."

Wellington's contentious roading problems were also on people's minds in The Dominion Post survey.

"The Basin Flyover is such a disgrace and backwards thinking - it will become an unsafe area and an eyesore," one person wrote. Another asked for a better approach to roading: "The entry to the city and airport is shocking."

A loss of business further north, council spending, the loss of public service jobs, too much money spent on arts, a light rail system, and waterfront development were other gripes or bonuses in Wellington.

The Futurescape Global Dominion Post poll had a margin of error of 4 per cent.

The Dominion Post