Council tinkers with super-city idea
Porirua City Council has watered down its official submission on amalgamation, now preferring to support Wairarapa standing alone and more consultation to be donewith Tawa residents.
Councillors made impassioned statements when the submission to the Local Government Commission on whether the region should have a super- city was signed off at a special meeting last Thursday.
Porirua mayor Nick Leggett said though plenty had been made in the media of the divisions between the region’s councils, and amalgamation being unlikely to get past a referendum, change had to come.
‘‘While we are making slight amendments today on our original proposal [ regarding Wairarapa and Tawa], the principles we adopted more than two years ago still stand,’’ he said.
‘‘The things that the Hutt Valley are scared of, such as loss of identity, have been discussed for two years.
‘‘If Whitby and Cannons Creek can feel part of Porirua, and their values and needs are met, then why can’t the same be true of Upper Hutt and Porirua in one council?
‘‘There will always be a wide range of views, but we should not be terrified by the fact that people do not agree with our position.’’
The background to the council’s submission noted that 75 per cent of its income was from rates and that Porirua has the least number of rateable units for its population of any council in New Zealand.
Projected spending in the next 10 years and resident expectations of service levels was not sustainable, the report said.
The two-tiered authority of a greater Wellington council with local boards – including a Porirua/ Tawa board of seven elected members – was still preferred, Leggett said. But a single authority for Wairarapa was now the better option, he said.
‘‘Wairarapa does not want to be told about where they should fit,’’ he said. ‘‘My personal view is that Wairarapa cannot stand on its own, but we accept the argument that their towns would fit better under a unitary authority.’’
Tawa shares retail, education, economic, catchment and other areas with Porirua, but the council recommended the commission work closely with the Tawa community to get its views on which local board it would prefer.
Councillor John Burke said he agreed with the council’s position on amalgamation and admired ‘‘the courage that some of our neighbours have failed to show’’.
Porirua City Council was slightly ahead of public opinion on the issue, he said, which was both commendable and dangerous.
He was convinced most Tawa residents did not want a combined board with Porirua.
Deputy mayor ’Ana Coffey said local democracy wasn’t broken, but it might break soon, so a proactive approach was necessary.
‘‘There is talk about toothless local boards and less chance for the community to have a say [in a super-city], but that’s wrong,’’ she said.
‘‘Plenty of people I have talked to believe community boards is the right model.
‘‘ They influence their neighbourhood and residents will go to them about dogs, rubbish, streetlights and jumping off bridges [at Paremata].’’
Councillor Bronwyn Kropp said ‘‘mythbusting’’ needed to happen about the negativity around amalgamation and pointed out that voting in local body elections was woeful.
‘‘ It’s hard to raise the flag for democracy when well under half the enrolled voters actually vote,’’ she said.
‘‘People will be able to grasp the idea of a single council more easily. When we are elected in a ward in Porirua we still have the best interests and the vision of the city at heart.’’
A meeting of all the councils affected by the proposal has been called by Porirua City Council for tomorrow.
‘‘We expect all councils will participate in the meeting,’’ Leggett said.
‘‘It’s important we get together and agree on a way forward for the region to work better before the Local Government Commission makes a final proposal that will go to a binding referendum.’’
Progressive: City councillors say Porirua is leading the way on the super-city issue. Photo: KRIS DANDO
Amalgamation supporter: John Burke saluted the city council’s courage.