Amal­ga­ma­tion de­bate be­gins with ques­tions

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

An in­de­pen­dent panel will con­sider a pos­si­ble su­per-city style re­design of the re­gion’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment, while the may­ors have de­cided to con­sult their cit­i­zens sep­a­rately.

The re­gional coun­cil panel must re­port by Oc­to­ber and, fol­low­ing that, its pro­posal will be pre­sented to the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion.

The Gov­ern­ment has told the coun­cils it wants new coun­cil struc­tures in place in time for the 2013 lo­cal body elec­tions, and it plans to leg­is­late lim­its to coun­cil ac­tiv­i­ties.

Greater Welling­ton will pro­vide $150,000 to fund the panel and ex­pects any other par­tic­i­pat­ing par­ties to pay a share.

The re­gional coun­cil de­cided last week to es­tab­lish the panel to con­sider lo­cal gov­er­nance in the re­gion and to in­vite coun­cils and other or­gan­i­sa­tions to par­tic­i­pate in se­lect­ing the mem­bers and set­ting its terms of ref­er­ence.

Hutt coun­cil­lor Peter Glen­sor said 1.5 mil­lion New Zealan­ders are liv­ing un­der one uni­tary au­thor­ity in Auck­land.

‘‘ We are fewer than half a mil­lion peo­ple here with nine dif­fer­ent lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and we can’t get away from that change that has hap­pened,’’ he said.

The Christchurch earth­quakes mean that it and Auck­land are the two fo­cuses of the Gov­ern­ment’s at­ten­tion, he said.

Re­gional coun­cil chair­woman Fran Wilde said the panel’s dead­line was tight.

‘‘ The Gov­ern­ment have pro­posed a timetable through the House which some peo­ple who have been ex- in­mates of that in­sti­tu­tion be­lieve is very am­bi­tious. On the other hand we do know that MPS are able to change their own su­per­an­nu­a­tion re­quire­ments in the blink of an eye,’’ she said.

‘‘The fact is that Par­lia­ment can push leg­is­la­tion through very fast if it wishes to. If there is an ap­petite on the part of the Gov­ern­ment for this, they will do it.’’

Up­per Hutt coun­cil­lor Paul Swain suc­cess­fully moved an amend­ment re­quir­ing a ref­er­en­dum on the panel’s rec­om­men­da­tion, say­ing it would give peo­ple some say on the re­sult.

He also pointed out that one pos­si­ble out­come of the process could be the dis­so­lu­tion of the re­gional coun­cil.

‘‘This is not a process to pre­serve the re­gional coun­cil.

‘‘The panel and the ref­er­en­dum should not in­volve peo­ple with vested in­ter­ests.’’

Coun­cil­lor Daran Pon­ter said he did not want Greater Welling­ton staff to pro­vide sup­port to the panel. ‘‘This panel does need to be in­de­pen­dent and they do need to be put be­hind a Chi­nese wall.’’

Welling­ton coun­cil­lor Chris Laid­law op­posed giv­ing ratepay­ers a say through a ref­er­en­dum, say­ing they pro­vide more ques­tions than they an­swer.

Ju­dith Aitken op­posed a ref­er­en­dum but did sup­port the ap­point­ment of a panel.

She was ‘‘not con­vinced as to what the prob­lems ac­tu­ally are.

‘‘One of the tasks for this re­view panel is go­ing to be to very clearly iden­tify what are the sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems that struc­tural so­lu­tions will rem­edy.’’

‘‘We should be very, very care­ful that the root of this is an is­sue of con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy,’’ she said. ‘‘It is at risk where ex­ec­u­tive and gov­ern­ments are will­ing to pass leg­is­la­tion that un­der­mines sig­nif­i­cant demo­cratic mat­ters.’’

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