Carterton will hold the key
Efficiency versus voice
Carterton is likely to assume an important role in the region – though briefly – in the next few months.
When all the council groups have made their pitches and the Local Government Commission proposes new council arrangements for Wellington, Carterton shoppers could find themselves confronted by an onslaught of people with clip-boards wanting their signature.
They will be looking for about 600 signatures, or 10 per cent of the district’s voters, to force a referendum.
Since the contentious local government reform discussions began, various mayors and councillors have been keen to get their views into print.
Rather than report what the politicians had to say, Central Community Newspapers approached one of the council officers charged with analysing the possible permutations of local government rearrangement, and agreed not to name the officer.
Case for change
Since Auckland was amalgamated its now-unified voice has drowned every other.
Planning of Wellington’s regional activities – transport, water supply, storm water, harbours and regional economic development has been ineffective and inefficient because of competing parochial interests.
Land development planning has been done by city and district councils with no regard for the region’s interest.
‘‘The case for change is being able to make better- integrated decisions earlier,’’ the officer said.
‘‘The Wellington Regional Strategy is a classic example . . . it takes forever because of competing interests.’’
While parochialism has slowed the regional strategy committee to a crawl, Wellington City Council has begun doing its own thing and other councils are starting to do the same, the officer said.
‘‘One of the problems with the status quo is mandate.’’
City and district councillors must represent their own constituents, and are therefore unable to act in the region’s interests. Against
There are 106 city, regional and district councillors representing 430,000 residents. Any amalgamations are likely to result in less representation, further removed from people.
The city, district and regional councils could remain.
It is possible regional strategic planning could be reorganised to reduce parochial competition, and the regional council could take over land development planning, but it would not give a unified regional voice.
Single unitary council
The region or most of the region could be governed by a single council taking in the roles of city, district and the regional council. This would address all the regional strategic planning issues and give the region a single voice, at the expense of less representation. If the
council were larger than 400,000 people it would have the option of being two-tier, with local decisions such as street improvements and local parks work, taken by local boards.
Kapiti and Wairarapa might feel they were being governed from Wellington.
However, our advisor said, although Wellington would dominate as the biggest constituency, it had only 40 per cent of residents, so it would not have a council majority.
Smaller unitary councils
The region could fragment into two, three or four unitary councils. The two-tier option, with local boards, would be available only to a council made up of Wellington, Lower Hutt and any
current councils. It is an option that would probably be worse than the status quo in every respect – more fragmented and parochial strategic planning, more voices and less representation. Greater Wellington spends about $11 million each year more in Wairarapa than it collects and the money mainly comes out of Wellington. That would either have to be funded by Wairarapa rate increases or services would have to be cut.
Getting its voice heard could be one of Wairarapa’s biggest challenges, the officer said.
‘‘ Gisborne is about an equivalent unitary authority and they are a little bit invisible.
‘‘Wellington is quite out there. For Wairarapa on its own you would have to think they would be potentially quite isolated.’’
If Lower and Upper Hutts were to combine into a single unitary authority it would make matters worse, she said.
‘‘You are not just creating a unitary in the Hutt, you’ve got to deal with the rest of the region. What you are doing is setting up two or three or four meaty councils – effectively the Auckland situation prior to amalgamation. It would be a lot more than the status quo. It would be a real mess.’’
The smaller unitary authorities would not be able to handle transport networks, harbour management and catchment management because those things just do not stop at council boundaries, she said.
‘‘ Council- controlled organisations would be inevitable to run regional things and those organisations would have to be delegated to make decisions.’’
Territorial authority amalgamations
The regional council could stay, with various city and district councils amalgamated into larger territorial authorities.
‘‘That does get some efficiencies but it doesn’t address the key strategic issues,’’ the officer said.
The region would not have a single voice or a single strategic plan and it would not cut out the competition between councils.
‘‘The other option under the act is for some of those region-scale issues to be transferred to the regional council,’’ she said.
‘‘That would achieve some benefits, but it would be so politically unpalatable that it would never happen voluntarily.’’
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