The thorny issue of amalgamation – in 1989
FLASHBACK ‘‘In this region you had Makara, Tawa, Petone and Eastbourne as separate entities and that all disappeared.’’
Amalgamation came to Tawa in 1989 and residents were not happy – not one bit. Bruce Murray, chairman of the Tawa Historical Society, said Tawa – which had its own borough council and mayor – becoming part of Wellington was unpalatable to residents.
A door-to-door poll found 98 per cent of Tawa households in favour of retaining independence.
‘‘The Government took a nationwide look at the 700 councils and other specialpurpose bodies and decided to pare them down to 86,’’ he said. ‘‘In this region you had Makara, Tawa, Petone and Eastbourne as separate entities and that all disappeared. It was seen as being forced upon you and people were unhappy.’’
Tawa Borough Council manager Noel Tock was scathing of the amalgamation decision, saying he had grave doubts Wellington could match the standards of his organisation.
‘‘Totally against the wishes of the people of Tawa, government policy is forcing an amalgamation,’’ he told KapiMana News for our May 23, 1989, edition. ‘‘ What purpose is served when democracy is demonstrated by dictatorial actions?’’
Murray, who became Tawa College principal in 1989, recalled residents wanted to fight the decision ‘‘tooth and nail’’.
The borough council had built parks and sports grounds and managed infrastructure like subdivisions and stormwater admirably, he said.
He got a knock on his door one night, before amalgamation, from borough council members.
‘‘They told me all their money would go to Wellington, so they would like to give some to Tawa College for a scholarship. They gave us $10,000 and that fund has been in place ever since, given to the best all-round student each year.’’
Murray said Tawa has had excellent council representation over the years from the likes of Kerry Prendergast, Robert Armstrong, Ngaire Best and Malcolm Sparrow.
From 1989 until 1998, Tawa had two councillors on Wellington City Council, but that was abolished for a wider Northern ward, taking in Khandallah, Ngaio and Johnsonville. Four councillors for that ward was reduced to three in 2007.
Murray said though it took time, Tawa has accepted its unity with Wellington and been the better for it. A beautiful upgrade to Grasslees Reserve, maintenance of the swimming pool and partnership with Tawa College for a sports turf were examples of a positive partnership, and the suburb had retained its ‘‘village’’ sense, he said.
Prendergast, who attended Tawa College and started her political life as a Tawa Borough councillor, said it took many years for a ‘‘true integration’’ with Wellington.
‘‘No-one I spoke to in Tawa at the time thought amalgamation was a good idea,’’ she said. ‘‘There was concern that the uniqueness and culture of our borough would be lost, but with time this has disappeared. The level of access offered by Wellington [City Council] is high and as long as that is maintained, people will be happy.’’
Prendergast, Wellington mayor from 2001 to 2010, said an elected council of 10 members and a mayor looking after 13,000 people was unaffordable in today’s environment.
When we suggested Tawa possibly amalgamating with Porirua on the Kapi-Mana News Facebook page, the response was mixed.
‘‘Rates are higher in Porirua. I’m happy to stay with Wellington,’’ Karyn Pearce said.
‘‘Tawa should be part of Porirua. It is too far from Wellington CBD, but so close to Porirua’s CBD,’’ said Cam Dowling.
Tawa was part of a county council and its own borough before amalgamating with Wellington. Bruce Murray