Wellington Mayor responds to amalgamation proposal

4 December 2014

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says it must be up to the people of the Wellington region to decide what model of local government works, following today’s announcement by the Local Government Commission to recommend amalgamating the region’s councils.

Mayor Wade-Brown says: “Nine councils for a region of 500,000 is overkill, so change to current arrangements could be appropriate,” she says.

“However, the Commission’s recommendation for an ‘über-Council’ including the Wairarapa will struggle to gain widespread approval when a referendum is held. Debate has become polarised between one über-Council versus the status quo.

“Recent surveys of public opinion toward amalgamation reject the idea of one über-Council from Miramar to Masterton, so this two-tier super-city proposal will struggle to be endorsed by a poll of the people,” says Mayor Wade-Brown.

“This proposal appears to go against the clearly expressed wishes of the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa, and their clear desire to determine their own destiny.”

Mayor Wade-Brown said some reorganisation of the shape of local government could be attractive. Wellington City was eager to continue the progress of increased cooperation on essential local government functions.

“Councils across Wellington are cooperating well, streamlining water services, economic development and emergency management.

“Eighteen months ago, the Wellington City Council suggested a more democratic, direct and decisive one-tier model, with one urban and one rural council, to be put to a referendum,” she says.

“However, the Hutt Valley is very opposed to amalgamation with other Councils so three or four Councils may be more acceptable to the public and yet simpler than the nine we have now. The Regional Council's functions could be taken on by this smaller group.

“The increased power of the local boards compared to Auckland may provide more real local democracy, but creates new competition between two tiers on transport, libraries and other issues.

“To have ‘roading and transport’ as a governing body responsibility with ‘walking, cycling and parking’ as a local board delegation is the antithesis of a joined-up transport approach.

“I see this proposal as undermining the Capital’s voice as the economic powerhouse of the region. There would only be two councillors from the Wellington CBD in a council of 22.”