Re­gion faces a big and ugly beast

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

How can Welling­ton re­gion’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment be ra­tio­nalised? And why should it be?

They were some of the is­sues Welling­ton politi­cians de­bated at Welling­ton cen­tral li­brary re­cently.

Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil chair­woman Fran Wilde said if we didn’t do it our­selves, some­one would do it for us, but Welling­ton mayor Celia Wade-Brown was scep­ti­cal of the ben­e­fits.

Green list MP Sue Ked­g­ley said it was part of an Act Party strat­egy to pri­va­tise lo­cal gov­ern­ment ser­vices.

Welling­ton Cen­tral MP Grant Robert­son said the Labour Party had no prob­lem with a re­view, but op­posed any com­pul­sion to amal­ga­mate.

Ms Wilde said Auck­land’s 20 coun­cil­lors could now ac­tu­ally sit with the gov­ern­ment and com­mand re­spect and dol­lars.

‘‘The growth, or the con­struc­tion of the new Auck­land is some­thing we need to be cog­nisant of be­cause the new Auck­land, re­gard­less of teething prob­lems, is a very big and ugly ma­chine with a third of the pop­u­la­tion.

‘‘And they are able to have reg­u­lar meet­ings with se­nior politi­cians from cen­tral gov­ern­ment and with very se­nior peo­ple from the de­part­ments and ac­tu­ally sit across the ta­ble from them, not as sup­pli­cants, but as ne­go­ti­at­ing part­ners. And I think it’s very im­por­tant to un­der­stand that.’’

Lo­cal gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Rod­ney Hide has be­gun a process of re­view­ing lo­cal gov­er­nance, through a re­port en­ti­tled Smarter Gov­ern­ment stronger com­mu­ni­ties.

A may­oral fo­rum-com­mis­sioned study into amal­ga­ma­tion op­tions and ben­e­fits by Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers iden­ti­fied six op­tions: Sta­tus quo Strength­ened re­gional coun­cil Log­i­cal clus­ters of coun­cils such as Lower Hutt / Up­per Hutt or Welling­ton / Porirua

Two tier lo­cal gov­ern­ment (modi- fied uni­tary au­thor­ity with lo­cal coun­cils)

Two sub-re­gional authorities

A sin­gle re­gional uni­tary au­thor­ity

Some change in lo­cal gov­er­nance was in­evitable, Ms Wilde said.

‘‘The gov­ern­ment is say­ing they are go­ing to do some­thing any­way.’’

The re­gional coun­cil had taken only a pre­lim­i­nary look at the Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers re­port’s op­tions, she said.

‘‘The one that came out with the most ben­e­fits was the two-tier op­tion, so you keep com­mu­nity de­ci­sion-mak­ing in the com­mu­ni­ties but you have one big en­tity that does the um­brella stuff.’’

How­ever, she does not sup­port the model im­posed on Auck­land, and any re-

uni­tary con­fig­u­ra­tion of lo­cal gov­ern­ment in Welling­ton re­gion should fo­cus on bet­ter long-term out­comes, rather than sav­ing money, she said.

Most func­tions of lo­cal gov­ern­ment have been taken over by 21 boards, ap­pointed by the Min­is­ter of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment.

‘‘Street fur­ni­ture – that’s even been taken away from the politi­cians in Auck­land and it is now de­cided by a coun­cil­con­trolled or­gan­i­sa­tion,’’ she said.

‘‘Wellingtonians need to have a good look at this, be­cause if we don’t do some­thing about it some­one else will do it for us.’’

Welling­ton mayor Celia WadeBrown was scep­ti­cal about amal­ga­ma­tions, or a re­gional au­thor­ity con­trol­ling re­gional ser­vices. She pointed out how dif­fer­ently the ris­ing de­mand for wa­ter was be­ing ap­proached around the re­gion.

‘‘Welling­ton City Coun­cil has de­cided that our ap­proach should be through fix­ing leaks and ed­u­ca­tion. We have said clearly ‘no’ to do­mes­tic wa­ter me­ters.’’

Kapiti, on the other hand ap­pears headed for com­pul­sory rain wa­ter col­lec­tion tanks on new homes and uni­ver­sal do­mes­tic me­ter­ing.

‘‘It seems to me that those two dif­fer­ent ar­eas in the re­gion should be able to make those de­ci­sions,’’ she said.

Ge­o­graph­i­cal neigh­bours are not nec­es­sar­ily the best coun­cils to co-op­er­ate with one an­other and Welling­ton City Coun­cil is co­op­er­at­ing with Hamil­ton to back up com­puter sys­tems.

‘‘ Just to go back to the charm­ingly-ti­tled, but slightly sus­pi­cious mat­ter, Smarter Gov­ern­ment stronger com­mu­ni­ties – there is pres­sure on us to amal­ga­mate. I am very scep­ti­cal about one city from Mi­ra­mar to Master­ton. I think that would di­lute our dif­fer­ences with­out nec­es­sar­ily sav­ing any money.’’

Green MP Sue Ked­g­ley said Mr Hide had cho­sen the lo­cal gov­ern­ment port­fo­lio for him­self when it be­came ob­vi­ous that gov­ern­ment as­set sales were not go­ing to be on the gov­ern­ment’s first-term agenda.

‘‘ The goal is to com­pletely kneecap lo­cal gov­ern­ment,’’ she said.

Once most ser­vices were handed over to coun­cil-con­trolled or­gan­i­sa­tions, they would be ripe for pri­vati­sa­tion, she said.

‘‘Most Wellingtonians are com­pletely obliv­i­ous to what is go­ing on or where this gov­ern­ment re­view might be headed,’’ she said.

Welling­ton Cen­tral MP Grant Robert­son said nei­ther he nor the Labour Party was op­posed to re­view­ing how best to or­gan­ise lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

‘‘What we are against is the no­tion of forced amal­ga­ma­tion,’’ he said.

From the au­di­ence, Peter Brooks said there seemed to be gen­eral agree­ment on a two-tier sys­tem of lo­cal gov­ern­ment for Welling­ton.

‘‘What wor­ries me at re­gional gov­ern­ment level is that peo­ple don’t seem to re­late to it po­lit­i­cally, and yet they have got some of the re­ally big jobs: the whole is­sue of cli­mate change, trans­port and wa­ter.’’

Panel: Greater Welling­ton chair­woman Fran Wilde, left, Welling­ton Cen­tral MP Grant Robert­son, Welling­ton mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Green Party list MP Sue Ked­g­ley and the meet­ing chair­man, Green Party list MP Gareth Hughes.,

Un­der the radar: Peter Brooks wanted to know why there was so lit­tle in­ter­est in re­gional gov­ern­ment’s ac­tiv­i­ties, de­spite it deal­ing with im­por­tant is­sues.

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