Mayor pushes for stop to super-cities

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 10/03/2014
Ray Wallace
STANDING UP: Lower Hutt mayor Ray Wallace.

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Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace is rallying his allies at a secret meeting today to discuss how to put a stop to super-cities.

A group of 20 mayors and deputies were meeting in Wairakei, north of Taupo, to voice their concerns over the local government amalgamation process and to put a stop to "councils being steamrolled in to super-cities," Mr Wallace said.

The meeting came as a surprise to Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule - also Hastings' mayor - who said he was disappointed he was only told of the meeting by Local Government Minister Paula Bennett.

Ms Bennett was invited to attend but is out of the country and said in a statement the Government did not have amalgamation on its agenda.

Mr Wallace denied any sort of "renegade" or "break-away" motives behind calling the meeting and said that although some invited mayors declined to attend he believed the "chains needed to be rattled".

Local Government New Zealand - the representative body of all 78 councils - had not been included because it had taken a clear neutral stance on amalgamation, he said.

The decision not to inform Mr Yule was not deliberate and Mr Wallace said he should have given him the heads-up about the meeting.

Wellington, Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay were all being consulted over proposals for a super-city by the Local Government Commission.

"Nine hundred people turned up in Hutt Valley for consultation meetings and voiced loudly their concerns against a super-city, but I don't believe they've been heard," Mr Wallace said.

Those mayors gathering today were not anti-Government but had concerns about their communities losing their voice.

"My concern is if we sit back and do nothing, then there will be a super-city created against the will of the people."

Mr Yule said the meeting appeared exclusive because the national association had not been told about it and it should have been better handled.

"All councils are meeting on Thursday and Friday this week in Wellington, and their concerns could have been discussed then."

Amalgamation was controversial and emotive but "the law is the law . . . and councils have to allow reorganisation to be considered", he said.

"I have advised Ray that if there are messages from the meeting, then Local Government New Zealand is happy to be part of that process to make sure they're heard."

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson, along with Carterton Mayor Ron Mark, South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples and Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy, were invited to attend the meeting but declined.

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Ms Patterson said the right process needed to be followed and there were other means for handling any concerns.

She was unaware that select mayors had been invited to the meeting, and had been under the impression that any council facing possible amalgamation could attend.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett were left off the invitation list and agreed that today's meeting was not the best way to address amalgamation concerns considering the commission was yet to release a draft proposal.

- The Dominion Post

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