City merger put on hold

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL FORBES

Plans to merge Welling­ton and Porirua into one city have been put on ice amid fears the pub­lic would not get a say in the mat­ter.

Welling­ton city coun­cil­lors voted two weeks ago to let the mat­ter lie un­til new laws have been passed by Par­lia­ment this year mak­ing it eas­ier for coun­cils to merge if they so wish.

That means any talk of a merger will not be back on the Welling­ton City Coun­cil ta­ble un­til af­ter the Oc­to­ber lo­cal body elec­tions.

Porirua City Coun­cil sup­ported the pro­posed re­gion­wide amal­ga­ma­tion, which was even­tu­ally scrapped last year, and Porirua mayor Nick Leggett has spo­ken of­ten of how ben­e­fi­cial an amal­ga­ma­tion be­tween Welling­ton and Porirua would be.

The only Welling­ton City coun­cil­lor to vote against de­lay­ing the merger on Wed­nes­day was Tawa’s Mal­colm Spar­row, but only be­cause he had not had enough time to un­der­stand the Gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed law change.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Sam Lotu-Iiga an­nounced the in­ten­tion of chang­ing the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act in early March. If the changes be­come law in their cur­rent state, they will, for the first time, al­low coun­cils to lead their own amal­ga­ma­tion pro­cesses, rather than hav­ing to ask the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion.

Welling­ton mayor Celia WadeBrown said there was no re­quire­ment for coun­cil-led amal­ga­ma­tions to be de­cided by a ref­er­en­dum, nor was there any sug­ges­tion a pub­lic vote would even be op­tional.

Coun­cil­lors did not re­alise that un­til Cab­i­net pa­pers out­lin­ing the changes were re­leased, and in light of that ‘‘con­cern­ing’’ rev­e­la­tion, Wade-Brown said it was best to let the mat­ter lie for now.

‘‘Our coun­cil, par­tic­u­larly my­self, have al­ways said we must have a ref­er­en­dum on any amal­ga­ma­tion pro­posal,’’ she said.

‘‘Cit­i­zens de­serve the right to vote on any changes to their lo­cal democ­racy.’’

Welling­ton City coun­cil­lor Paul Ea­gle said there was con­cern about the Gov­ern­ment tak­ing power away from the peo­ple when it came to coun­cil merg­ers.

‘‘We need to have a bet­ter look at what Cab­i­net is think­ing, and what this Gov­ern­ment is think­ing, be­fore we go and make a vi­tal de­ci­sion over the two coun­cils merg­ing,’’ he said.

The new leg­is­la­tion is ex­pected to be in­tro­duced in June, and will go through the se­lect com­mit­tee process. It is ex­pected to be­come law in De­cem­ber.

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