Laid­law finds niche in re­gional coun­cil

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

Chris Laid­law served less than a term as a par­lia­men­tar­ian and it was long enough for him.

‘‘I walked in with my eyes shut and walked out with my eyes open,’’ he said.

He en­tered Par­lia­ment through a by-elec­tion for Fran Wilde’s Welling­ton Cen­tral seat when she won Welling­ton’s may­oralty and didn’t find the hectoring role of an op­po­si­tion back­bencher much to his lik­ing.

‘‘I’m a kind of con­sen­sus, bi­par­ti­san, po­lit­i­cal ag­nos­tic. That’s what I like do­ing; find­ing so­lu­tions that ev­ery­body can be in­volved with and the ad­ver­sar­ial na­ture of Par­lia­ment doesn’t al­low for that,’’ he said.

‘‘That us-and-them syn­drome is all over the western world, re­ally.

‘‘There are big is­sues that are be­ing held hostage to Par­lia­ment’s par­ti­san pol­i­tics.’’

Mr Laid­law first caught pub­lic at­ten­tion as an All Black half­back. He was awarded a Rhodes Schol­ar­ship and read an­thro­pol­ogy at Ox­ford’s Mer­ton Col­lege.

He went on to serve New Zealand as a diplo­mat, a race re­la­tions con­cil­ia­tor and most re­cently as a Welling­ton re­gional coun­cil- lor. He found the coun­cil to be re­fresh­ingly free of party pol­i­tics and a more con­struc­tive, healthy en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘ It is an or­gan­i­sa­tion that works far bet­ter than any of the city coun­cils.

‘‘I don’t ex­actly know why that is but there is a real spirit of ac­com­mo­da­tion.’’

If only one thing is achieved in his time on the coun­cil he said it would be es­tab­lish­ing a nat­u­ral re­sources plan, he said.

‘‘What we are try­ing to achieve is an over-arch­ing plan for the whole re­gion which would ab­sorb all the cur­rent plans and at the same time bring in a Maori di­men­sion to re­source plan­ning.’’

The re­gion’s land and coastal en­vi­ron­ments, wa­ter and air have been reg­u­lated by a plethora of in­di­vid­ual plans and, gen­er­ally, re­gional coun­cils had far too many plans, Mr Laid­law said.

This one would sim­plify them and bring them all to­gether.

‘‘When we can achieve this, and co- man­age­ment of the nat­u­ral re­sources base, it will be a unique achieve­ment locally and a first na­tion­ally.’’

Mr Laid­law would also like to see ra­tion­al­i­sa­tion of the re­gion’s lo­cal gov­er­nance.

‘‘We’ve got a mish-mash of over­laps and du­pli­ca­tion. We ba­si­cally need a a sin­gle gi­ant plan for the whole re­gion, of which the nat­u­ral re­sources plan would be a sub­set.’’

But he would not be drawn on what form he thought lo­cal gov­ern­ment should take.

‘‘We are not go­ing to go the su­per-city route. There’s no ap­petite for it at all,’’ he said.

‘‘The se­cret to lo­cal gov­ern­ment in the re­gion is re­gion­alise that stuff that needs to be done re­gion­ally and as­sign all that to a body. Whether it be a re­gional coun­cil, I don’t care.’’

Re­source man­age­ment, in­clud­ing wa­ter qual­ity and sup­ply, spa­tial plan­ning and trans­port all needs to be closely co-or­di­nated, he said.

‘‘Hav­ing re­gion­alised what we need to, then we de­cide on the struc­ture of lo­cal gov­ern­ment af­ter that.

‘‘Maybe we don’t need coun­cils. I per­son­ally think we do, be­cause ter­ri­to­rial au­thor­i­ties de­liver a whole lot of ser­vices that peo­ple need.’’

Po­lit­i­cal ag­nos­tic: Welling­ton re­gional coun­cil­lor Chris Laid­law.

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