Super-city plans nudged by rival merger idea

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2013

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The countdown to a Wellington super-city is about to begin.

What has been a slow, lumbering journey towards local government amalgamation in the region got a jolt yesterday when the Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils asked the Local Government Commission to merge them into a single entity.

In doing so, they started a process that is likely to see the rest of the region's councils submit their alternative proposals for a Wellington super-city ahead of time, assuming the Wairarapa features in those plans.

If the commission decides to accept the Wairarapa application, it will trigger a 20-day period within which alternative applications can be submitted.

That could force the hand of a working party representing the Wellington city, Kapiti Coast, Porirua city and Greater Wellington regional councils, which has been consulting on two super-city options for the region.

Working party chairman and Porirua councillor Ken Douglas said any potential joint application was on track to be lodged with the commission in late June, but the actions of the Wairarapa councils may have changed things.

"I think it'll probably mean our process will have to be accelerated somewhat to meet that statutory obligation," he said.

"What may go in [to the commission] might not be the refined application that was being intended if the councils agreed [on a joint proposal]."

Councils involved in the working party can still opt to lodge their own applications for local government reform, or do nothing if they cannot agree on a joint approach.

Local Government Commission chief executive Donald Riezebos confirmed the Wairarapa application had been received but declined to comment on what that would mean for other councils.

Greater Wellington chairwoman Fran Wilde said the working party would not be greatly affected, as it would take the commission a couple of weeks to consider the Wairarapa application.

"In that period we will have already got our own ready ... we will then put our own proposal in regardless."

On Tuesday, the two Hutt Valley councils will launch their own public consultation on three options for local government reform: a united Hutt Valley council, a super-city for the entire region, or the status quo.

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy said the 20-day time limit would not be a problem, as a decision on where the Hutt councils stood would be made shortly after consultation closed on June 14.

"We're efficient, you see. That's why the Hutt Valley will lead the way."

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- The Dominion Post

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