'Lord Mayor' proposed for Wellington

Last updated 11:24 30/10/2012
SIR GEOFFREY PALMER: Heads Wellington's local government review panel.

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One Lord Mayor for the region is being heralded as the future of local governance for Wellington.

An independent panel headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer today revealed its proposal for how local councils should be structured.

Under the structure there would be:

* A Greater Wellington Council with 10 councillors headed by a Lord Mayor, who would be elected by the public.

* Six local area councils: Wellington, Porirua, Kapiti, Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt and Wairarapa.

* Each council would have a ‘‘mayoral figurehead’’, elected by the council, not the public.

* The current level of 107 elected mayors and councillors would reduce to 79.

* The Greater Wellington Council would be responsible for all finances, including setting a single rate for the region. It would also look after regional matters such as environmental issues and transport planning.

* The local area councils would be responsible for local service delivery, such as rubbish collection and park management, and local engagement and advocacy.

* Local area councils would have budgets negotiated with the Wellington Regional Council and would be responsible for funds allocated to them.

* There would be one administration ‘‘corps’’ of officers, with one chief executive.
Councillors would sit for a four-year term, but would be restricted to a three-term maximum.

Sir Geoffrey said the aim was to create a stronger regional voice, to give Wellington stronger advocacy on the national stage.

‘‘The Wellington region seems to have lost its way in recent years. A decade ago Wellington was recognised as being at the forefront of governance, vision and place ... Today there is a feeling that the region is now living on these past glories.’’

The report said an Auckland style super-city would not fit with Wellington.

A Lord Mayor would provide a single voice of advocacy.

‘‘The Wellington region lacks a single voice. No elected person is empowered to speak for the region or deal with central government ... Nine leaders compete for attention and they often have different visions of economic growth and priorities.’’

The announcement comes after Wellington City Council officers recommended a single-tiered unitary authority, with a single Wairarapa council, loosely based on a Brisbane model.

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Wellington City Council chief executive Garry Poole said a two-tiered system was unwieldy, and confusing for the public.

However, Sir Geoffrey and the panel, commissioned by Greater Wellington regional council and Porirua City, dismissed the Brisbane model in the report.

‘‘An amalgamation of the whole area into one city would involve what the panel considers to be a triple weakness: an intolerable loss of local democracy; a fracturing of local sense of community; and the absence of a regional perspective for the entire region,’’ Sir Geoffrey said.

The councils will now separately consider the different options being advocated, before making their own decisions.

A regional hui to try and reach a consensus will be held next month.

- The Dominion Post

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