Su­per-city con­cept not new

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JOEL MAXWELL

Porirua nearly be­came part of a west coast su­per-city in 1989’s rad­i­cal lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­forms, it has been re­vealed by their ar­chi­tect.

Sir Brian El­wood, for­mer Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion chair­man, said things could have been very dif­fer­ent af­ter the changes.

‘‘Kapiti Coast could have been al­lied with Porirua; Porirua could have been al­lied with Welling­ton, which would have meant one west coast coun­cil stretch­ing from Welling­ton to Otaki.’’

We spoke to Sir Brian at his Waikanae home as amal­ga­ma­tion looms for the dis­trict again, pos­si­bly in time for the next coun­cil elec­tions.

Kapiti Coast Dis­trict was cre­ated in the re­forms, over­seen by Sir Brian, which cut New Zealand’s ‘‘ jig­saw’’ of 800 lo­cal au­thor­i­ties down to less than 80.

He said an amal­ga­mated west coast city was con­sid­ered in the changes, but ‘‘as con­di­tions ex­isted’’ in 1989 the coun­cils were con­sid­ered too dis­con­nected.

How­ever, Sir Brian said the even­tual cre­ation of two cities and a coun­cil was an in­terim so­lu­tion that could be changed very read­ily. Ei­ther way, the com­mis­sion recog­nised Kapiti coun­cil’s fu­ture was to the south, not north to­wards Horowhenua and Manawatu.

‘‘In the fin­ish the de­ci­sion was made to fo­cus the Kapiti Coast to­wards Welling­ton be­cause we looked care­fully at where peo­ple worked and where they lived . . . and that com­bi­na­tion . . . was re­ally cen­tred on Welling­ton.’’

Sir Brian would not ex­plic­itly en­dorse amal­ga­ma­tion pos­si­bilit- ies for up­com­ing changes but said change shouldn’t be feared – and even his re­forms from the 1980s were not per­ma­nent.

‘‘I never thought that the 1989 de­ci­sions would last for­ever . . . in many ways they were a step along a con­tin­u­ing jour­ney, be­cause life doesn’t stand still.’’

The 1989 changes were the first suc­cess­ful over­haul of lo­cal gov­ern­ment since the late nine­teenth cen­tury.

They were the

last ma­jor re­forms by a Labour Gov­ern­ment that had in­tro­duced mas­sive – and still con­tro­ver­sial – cen­tral gov­ern­ment changes.

The gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that gave Sir Brian’s com­mis­sion the author­ity to make any changes. Law changes go­ing through Par­lia­ment now, from the Na­tional Gov­ern­ment, would give com­mu­ni­ties the power to re­quest change.

In­di­vid­u­als, groups or coun­cils could pro­pose amal­ga­ma­tion to the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion.

If ac­cepted by the com­mis­sion, the only thing stop­ping the amal­ga­ma­tion would be a poll sparked by a pe­ti­tion com­pris­ing 10 per cent of vot­ers.

The poll would be de­cided by a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers from the en­tire coun­cil area.

Sir Brian said back in the 1980s the com­mis­sion tried to avoid ex­er­cis­ing its sub­stan­tial power, hold­ing back un­less there was no will­ing­ness from coun­cils to ‘‘move from the sta­tus quo’’.

One of the fears at the time was that ar­eas would lose their lo­cal iden­tity along with their coun­cil – some­thing that hadn’t hap­pened, he said.

‘‘The community iden­tity is not the coun­cil – the coun­cil is a ser­vice or­gan­i­sa­tion. The community cre­ates its own iden­tity and it’s the peo­ple that are im­por­tant and they will cre­ate their iden­tity.’’

While iden­tity might not be a prob­lem for mod­ern coun­cils, Sir Brian said the de­mand for new and bet­ter coun­cil as­sets and ser­vices in New Zealand had been con­tin­u­ous.

‘‘Look­ing back to 1989, and it doesn’t seem very long ago as far as I’m con­cerned, the stan­dards of community in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices have grown dra­mat­i­cally; and yet we are still not sat­is­fied, we want more.

‘‘All right, it’s nice to want – but some­body has to pay.’’

Coun­cils have noth­ing other than what they rate, or what they bor­row, he said.

‘‘And one thing I’ve come to re­gret is the ex­tent to which de­vel­op­ment has in­creas­ingly come to be pro­vided with bor­rowed money . . . a prob­lem all around the western world.’’

Sir Brian said he wanted to stay on the side­lines of the cur­rent amal­ga­ma­tion de­bate and ‘‘be help­ful’’ where he could.

‘‘The les­son of 1989 is that lo­cal gov­ern­ment can sur­vive, it can change.’’

Coun­cil crafter: Change is cer­tain and should not be feared, says Sir Brian El­wood.

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