Super-city panel fronts up
Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer is to head an independent panel to recommend a possible reorganisation of local and regional councils in the Wellington region.
The rest of the panel will be war and treaty historian, and company director Sir Wira Gardner, former Mary Potter Hospice general manager and governance consultant Sue Driver and businessman and former Transit chairman Bryan Jackson.
Porirua and the regional council both approved the panel and its terms of reference at their meetings last Wednesday.
It will consult widely, assess alternatives for future local government in Wellington, identify a preferred council structure and outline transition arrangements.
It will report back by the end of October and has a budget of $241,000 of which Porirua will contribute $ 15,000 and one staff member.
Every other local council in the region has opted out of the panel process and will follow Wellington’s lead, carrying out their own consultation, and making individual submissions to the Local Government Commission.
Porirua City Council excluded the public from its meeting.
However, after the meeting, at the announcement of the panel membership, Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett said the two consultation processes were not necessarily mutually exclusive and that Porirua would be involved in the Wellington survey as well.
The Wellington survey offers citizens a choice of four possible forms that future local government might take: the status quo; merging all councils into three new ones – Wellington- Porirua- Kapiti, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa; merging all councils into two – Wellington and Wairarapa; and finally a single, Auckland-style ‘super-city’ council.
‘‘This [the independent panel] process is asking people to put functions before forms,’’ Mr Leggett said. ‘‘What does the region need from local government?’’
At the regional council meeting four councillors opposed the panel.
Wellington councillor Daran Ponter said the process was important but had been rushed.
Paul Bruce and Garry Mcphee also opposed it.
Upper Hutt member Paul Swain said it was an expensive luxury and would duplicate work being carried out by city and district councils, which were better placed to consult the public.
‘‘Their approach makes this particular review redundant,’’ he said.
‘‘This will be a helicopter view across the region.’’
However, council chairwoman Fran Wilde disagreed.
‘‘I am at a loss to see how this could be considered a ‘helicopter view’, and that it’s something that territorial authorities could do better, run by councillors whose jobs might be at stake or might not be at stake.’’
Former Porirua Mayor Jenny Brash said she was ‘‘quite appalled’’ at some of the councillors’ comments that the review process had been rushed. She said it had been in train for two years, since when she had been mayor of Porirua.
Super panel: Porirua mayor Nick Leggett, left, with governance review panel members Sue Driver and Bryan Jackson (partly obscured).