Wellington Scoop

The future, and how to choose it

wellington city council – amalgamation options, super city, unitary authority
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By the time the Wellington Regional Council voted this week to hire independent experts to write a proposal for local government reform, the eight other councils had agreed to do things differently: to consult with their communities first, and then to decide on options for change.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown continues to insist, in her comments on reform, that there must be consultation first, before the city council debates the possibilities. “It is important that our public consultation does not have a pre-determined outcome,” she said, and councillors seem to agree with her. Her process couldn’t be more different from the Regional Council.

This week she produced four maps (click on them for a larger view) to help encourage discussion. The first shows the status quo – eight councils plus the Regional Council. The second map shows how things would look if there were only three councils – a Wellington/west coast city, a Hutt city, and the Wairarapa. A third possibility could be two councils – one urban/harbour and one rural. And the fourth possibility: one super-city, which is favoured by the Regional Council’s chair Fran Wilde and is not favoured by Mayor Wade-Brown.

A widening gap between the Regional Council and the others became visible this week when Hutt councillors said they would not consult with the regional council’s experts. Mayor Ray Wallace said he didn’t think they would be truly independent. “They [the regional council] have been pushing one particular agenda for some time and they have painted themselves into a corner.”

That agenda was being pushed in November, when a group of regional councillors prepared a paper in favour of one super-city which they distributed anonymously. As its circulation grew, so did debate about the workings of the regional council itself. Its undemocratic decision, for example, to support a flyover at the Basin Reserve which was made by a committee and never discussed by the full council. Since then, its consultation on changes to bus routes and schedules has been criticised as less than adequate, so much so that two regional councillors set up their own series of meetings with Wellingtonians – three times as many as the council itself.

Nevertheless, there’s a general expectation that the Regional Council’s independent panel, who are being hired at a cost of $150,000, will deliver a super-city plan. There’s also a growing awareness that Fran Wilde, faced with the likely abolition of the Regional Council, could be interested in becoming the first mayor of the super-city.

But with eight local bodies listening to their communities, the Regional Council’s go-it-alone plan may have trouble attracting the support which it is hoping for. Specially as it wants its experts to say what should be done, and not the public.


  1. Ross Clark, 1. April 2012, 10:58

    To get going, I can see the point of merging the five urban councils into one organisation and the three Wairarapa councils into another. These are two logical communities of interest; and it seems silly to have three councils to service only fifty thousand people. The 350,000 or so people in the urban councils are still fewer than the number served by the old Auckland City (450,000 or so).

  2. traveller, 4. April 2012, 10:56

    Sue Kedgley sounds an alarm in the DomPost this morning – she identifies a clear ACT agenda, to shrink local democracy, in the government’s reform proposal.

  3. Richard, 4. April 2012, 12:56

    So much for community consultation at “every stage”.
    As a community we have yet to see the initial proposal.
    At this stage I would ask why we have to pay an extra $150,000 just to have a central govt proposal on local governance rewritten.

  4. James C., 5. April 2012, 19:17

    I’ve lived in Tawa, Johnsonville and central-ish Wellington. I’m used to thinking of the Hutt Valley as being hard to get to, which makes it look like a separate community of interest. How’s the east-west link road through Newlands going? which might change my view.

  5. Richard, 5. April 2012, 20:09

    @James surely one cannot make big local governance decisions based solely on a road in Newlands .
    Widen your view on local governance, the local reforms proposed by central govt are not just about roading (though the NZTA would have you believe they are).
    Your community is not just a place where you drive, it’s where you live.
    This is why I suggested to the council that fully informing the community on the proposal would be a good idea.

  6. Mr Mandala, 21. April 2012, 18:32

    CONGRATS Nelson!!!! [Nelson amalgamation bid fails.]