Sir Geoffrey Palmer's vision of a two-tiered super-city has been "buried" by the Government, which is effectively forcing the Auckland model on Wellington, a regional councillor says.
Local Government Minister David Carter has rejected the claim, saying Wellington's destiny is still in its own hands when it comes to the shape of its next council.
Earlier this week, Mr Carter introduced a Supplementary Order Paper into the House during debate over the Local Government Amendment Bill.
It contained provisions that make it possible for local councils to amalgamate into larger, so-called super-councils.
But Greater Wellington regional councillor Daran Ponter said the minister's proposed changes would enable the Local Government Commission to approve only an Auckland-style super-city in Wellington and elsewhere.
"Not a situation which Wellingtonians will embrace," he said. "The majority of Wellingtonians have already rejected a Wellington super-city idea."
The order paper gives the commission the power to approve local boards for large unitary authorities if it is considered to be in the interest of good governance.
Auckland Council has two non-hierarchical decision-making bodies: the governing council and 21 local boards, similar to council wards.
Its model differs somewhat from the one proposed by an independent panel headed by Sir Geoffrey last month.
The panel proposed reducing Wellington's eight city and district councils to six local councils headed by "mayoral figureheads". They would work in conjunction with a beefed-up Greater Wellington council.
The other options on the table are the status quo or a one-tier super-council with up to 30 councillors.
Mr Carter said it was not correct for Mr Ponter to say the two-tier option had been buried.
"The changes the Government has made in the SOP allow for the use of a two-tier structure in the Wellington region, if that is the wish of the community."
Greater Wellington regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde, whose council backed the independent review, said contents of the order paper differed "in some respects" from what was proposed by Sir Geoffrey.
"The most important thing is that it allows for a two-tier model," she said. "It's now up to local-government leaders in the Wellington region to develop a really strong proposal that is tailored to our needs.
"If we do that, we can avoid an ‘Auckland solution' where a model designed and driven by central Government was imposed, with minimal input from Aucklanders."
The bill passed its third and final reading last night.
- The Dominion Post
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