Rates a worry with super-city
Porirua residents left Geoffrey Palmer in no doubt about what they think of the thorny amalgamation issue last Thursday.
The former primer minister is chairman of an independent panel holding a series of public meetings to discuss the future of local government in this region. The other members are former Wellington City and regional councillor Sue Driver, senior public servant Sir Wira Gardiner and businessman Bryan Jackson.
To about 80 people at Pataka, Sir Geoffrey outlined the aims of the panel, which has the backing of Porirua City and Greater Wellington councils.
‘‘We have seen the [super city] developments in Auckland. There are features, like spatial planning, that have never been seen before and must be considered in any debate in Wellington,’’ said Mr Palmer.
‘‘But there are also features that are unique about this region and we need to have a dialogue with you and then present a report.’’
Initial queries from the floor were about what amalgamation would do to rates in Porirua. Bruce Twiddle from Mana-Tawa Grey Power said superannuitants were already feeling the pinch, with more than a third of their income already going towards rates.
Mr Palmer said there would always be pressure on local authorities from central government and a rating review when looking at amalgamation was logical.
Comments towards the panel were well- thought out, intelligent and impassioned. One man told the audience he moved to Porirua from Samoa and was afraid the cultural identity and diversity that had made the city famous would be crushed under the weight of any super-city.
‘‘Look at Tawa, it’s shopping mall has gone down and down. I’m worried everything’s going to be about Wellington, Wellington, Wellington.’’
Ms Driver, who lives in Wellington, said she was jealous of Porirua’s diversity and one of the panel’s key issues was to argue that each city should retain its distinct identity.
‘‘Porirua has a vibrancy, it is like no other part of the region. But I also feel it is possible to have that strong local identity and bring it all together in a coherent way that can add quality and strength.’’
Another resident noted ‘‘our greatness comes from our smallness’’ and that Porirua should be the capital of any super-city.
One said Auckland’s super- city was ‘‘a debacle . . . and while we can’t keep our finger in the dyke, we must ensure the character of Porirua is not lost’’.
Mr Palmer said robust discussion and input from the public was crucial, both at these meetings and in online submissions.
More public meetings will precede the panel’s report to the Local Government Commission in October.