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.