The great super-city con
Ratepayers are being conned. The proposed Wellington supercity offers residents and ratepayers nothing but higher rates and less influence on how they are spent.
Without any ratepayer or resident mandate or consultation, our council made a unilateral submission supporting regional amalgamation.
The same councillors and senior management team who have led Porirua near to going broke and support amalgamation will have key roles in the super-city.
Do we want the same people making the same mistakes but with more dollars at stake?
Despite our current high rates, they are still reversible, but not if we amalgamate with a high-cost city – Wellington.
For example, Wellington’s hilly terrain and old, narrow roads, mean its roadside rubbish collection costs are significantly higher than Porirua’s.
Porirua ratepayers would be subsidising Wellington ratepayers’ rubbish collection.
Wellington has enormous leaky building liabilities, and bigger still liabilities for earthquake strengthening of buildings.
Do we still want to subsidise Wellington ratepayers?
The super-city plan discloses no cost savings, because there are none, based on the Auckland experience.
Only a few Auckland super-city cost savings have materialised, and with the exception of staffing, are minor.
But when you analyse the Auckland staff savings, these have been achieved by reducing the number of librarians, cleaners, parks and gardens staff – important people who do meaningful work, and make a difference.
In contrast, while Auckland manager numbers have fallen, pay and perks have increased to the point total management costs are greater than before amalgamation (inflation adjusted).
Savings can be achieved by cooperation, without any amalgamation costs.
For example, there can be standard planning processes, along the lines that already exist between Porirua and Kapiti.
If amalgamation is going to work, then the super-city will have to direct growth to areas that can handle it.
So not Porirua, where most of our water storage and sewerage systems are running at or above 100 per cent capacity.
Instead, growth should be encouraged in areas with spare capacity, and discouraged where it’s lacking.
The expected cost of amalgamating the existing councils and creating a Wellington super-city recently increased to $210 million, equivalent to $450 each for every adult and child in the region.
Based on the Auckland experience, that number will nearly double before completion.
According to Fran Wilde and Nick Leggett, the benefits are ‘‘speaking with one voice’’ and regional co-ordination.
Elect me and others of a similar mind to local and regional councils, and I’m sure we can bang some heads together, and get commonsense consensus without the cost of amalgamation.