One council the answer for Christchurch?

22:16, Aug 03 2014

There is an old saying that two heads are better than one, but is that really the case?

Is Christchurch better off for having a city council and a regional council or would the city run more smoothly if there was just one local authority calling the shots?

The answer to those questions, I suggest, is yes.

The existing local government set up in Christchurch is unwieldy and prone to leaving people confused.

Who do people need to go to, for example, to get planning permission if they're doing a new development - the city council or the regional council?

At the moment the answer to that is potentially both.


Wouldn't it be simpler if there was a one-stop shop where people could go to get all their consenting needs sorted?

Wouldn't the city's public transport system work better if it was the responsibility of one local authority rather than two? What is the sense in having Environment Canterbury (ECan) responsible for providing public transport services and the city council responsible for providing the infrastructure to support those services, such as bus stops, shelters and interchanges? Experience would suggest that the split serves no-one particularly well and often results in network changes occurring without critical infrastructure being in place.

Unitary authorities have been shown to work in other parts of the country. Auckland has not had a regional council since October 2010.

After it was disbanded its functions (and most of its staff) were simply absorbed into the new super-sized Auckland Council.

By all accounts the transition went fairly smoothly and there doesn't appear to be anyone baying for its return, so why couldn't Christchurch go down a similar path?

Opponents to a unitary authority have cited concerns about the loss of democracy.

That argument holds little sway as ECan has been democracy-free since the Government stepped in and appointed commissioners in 2010.

The Government has shown little appetite for changing that situation, so if we went down the track of a unitary authority we wouldn't be losing democracy, we would be regaining it.

With local body elections due in 2016, it makes sense to begin talking now about what local government setup would serve the city of Christchurch best.

The Press