Clear Choice for Future of Wellington Local Government

6 June 2013

Direct accessibility for the public and direct accountability of councillors are key features of Wellington City Council’s proposed option for the future shape of local government in the region.

The Wellington City Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee today agreed that a single tier unitary council for the metropolitan Wellington area west of the Rimutakas is the best alternative to the status quo and will now work on its submission to the Local Government Commission.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the proposed single unitary council, made up of a Mayor and 29 councillors elected from 29 single member local wards, would provide a clear and simple choice for the Local Government Commission to consider and for Wellingtonians to decide in a binding poll

"Under our proposal the Wellington region will be presented with a clear choice between a single-tier option for change, or the status quo," she says. "It will be up to Wellingtonians to decide.

"A single-tier model delivers clear advantages for direct access and direct accountability. It is efficient, effective and local.

"Smaller wards could transform the way we engage in local democracy. Alongside the more direct access to representatives, it will be easier and less expensive for people to stand for Council. There is a direct transmission of local issues to a wider forum.

"Our proposal would be for the urban areas west of the Rimutakas. Council agrees that a Masterton to Miramar structure won’t adequately cover the geographical and economic differences of the rural Wairarapa and urban Wellington areas."

The Mayor said that it would be likely another authority in the region would submit a two-tier model to the Local Government Commission. "What concerns this Council is the remoteness of the ‘governing council’ of a two-tier model, neither directly accessible nor accountable.

"That second tier isolates the region’s decision makers from the people they serve. This provides an illusion of democracy at best. The so-called local boards will find that their powers are limited more to the placement of rubbish bins than the strategic direction of our city.

"Our support for a single-tier model is contingent on it being well-resourced and with wards small enough for genuine local representation and connection. A ten-person unitary council would be unacceptable."

Mayor Wade-Brown said Council’s submission is an option for change, not a prescription. The public would have a genuine say in a binding poll.

"At the end of the day, we expect there to be a poll and the public will make the final decision about whether to opt for change or stick with the status quo."

The report to the Council's Strategy and Policy Committee is available below:

Regional Governance: Response to Reorganisation (844KB PDF)