Talks halted

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

The re­gion’s may­ors have closed down dis­cus­sions on re­gional gov­er­nance, po­ten­tially leav­ing the fu­ture amal­ga­ma­tion of their coun­cils in the hands of cen­tral govern­ment.

A fo­rum of the re­gion’s nine may­ors opted against fur­ther ex­am­i­na­tion of the re­gion’s gov­er­nance at a meet­ing on Septem­ber 9, Porirua mayor Nick Leggett says.

Last year the May­oral Fo­rum be­gan a re­view of the re­gion’s struc­ture in re­ac­tion to the Auck­land ‘‘ su­percity’’ coun­cil be­ing in­tro­duced. A re­port the may­ors com­mis­sioned re­sulted in six pos­si­ble gov­er­nance op­tions, from the sta­tus quo through to merg­ing coun­cils in Porirua, Welling­ton, the Hutt Val­ley, Kapiti and Wairarapa with the Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil.

Mr Leggett warned in June if Welling­ton did not present a strong, uni­fied, po­si­tion on re­gional gov­er­nance, a de­ci­sion will be forced on the city by govern­ment.

The National govern­ment has in­di­cated Welling­ton is a con­tender for su­percity re­form, and is ex­pected to es­ca­late the is­sue if it wins a sec­ond term.

It is dis­ap­point­ing most may­ors opted to back down from the is­sue, Mr Leggett says. ‘‘If we can’t ex­am­ine what we’ve got, how can we move for­ward?’’

Three may­ors were keen to con­tinue the gov­er­nance re­view, Mr Leggett says – him­self, re­gional coun­cil chair­woman Fran Wilde, and Kapiti Coast district mayor Jenny Rowan. Welling­ton mayor Celia Wade-Brown pub­licly sup­ports re­tain­ing the sta­tus quo, and other may­ors are be­ing con­ser­va­tive on the is­sue, Mr Leggett says.

‘‘My view dif­fers from the other may­ors. It’s ‘agree to dis­agree’.’’

The may­ors did re­solve to in­ves­ti­gate shar­ing more ser­vices re­gion­ally, he says.

An anal­y­sis of pub­lic sub­mis­sions col­lected by the may­ors in June was tabled at the meet­ing.

A to­tal 165 sub­mis­sions were re­ceived across the re­gion – Porirua had the high­est city coun­cil sub­mis­sion rate at 52, while Kapiti and Lower Hutt coun­cils re­ceived just two sub­mis­sions each.

‘‘That’s be­cause we put ef­fort into find­ing out what peo­ple thought,’’ Mr Leggett says. Porirua City Coun­cil or­gan­ised a well-at­tended pub­lic de­bate on re­gional gov­er­nance at Pataka in June.

The small to­tal num­ber of sub­mis­sions and the non-uni­for­mity of re­sponses means the data has sig­nif­i­cant lim­i­ta­tions and can­not be seen as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the re­gion’s res­i­dents, an­a­lysts Mart­inJenk­ins con­cluded.

How­ever, a ma­jor­ity of 69 per cent want change to re­gional gov­er­nance, their re­port says.

Ben­e­fits of merg­ing coun­cils in­clude forg­ing a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with re­gional govern­ment, bet­ter re­gional de­ci­sion-mak­ing, re­duc­ing costs and in­creas­ing ef­fi­ciency, ac­cord­ing to the sub­mis­sions. Busi­ness peo­ple saw par­tic­u­lar ben­e­fits in amal­ga­ma­tion, while res­i­dents were con­cerned it would lead to a re­view of rates and lo­cal ser­vices.

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