Wellington Scoop

Abolishing the regional council?

There’s no surprise that three of the Wellington City Council’s four options for reforming local government in the region involve abolishing the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

It’s an idea which is being pushed from the top. Before he lost his job, Minister of Local Government Nick Smith had signalled (via a Listener article) that “a key reform will be abolishing the regional council system.”

A few weeks earlier, Kent Duston had written that he didn’t see benefits in a supercity for Wellington but there was a simple way to achieve the vast majority of efficiency gains whilst simultaneously improving local democracy – by disestablishing the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

This is not the hare-brained idea it may seem on first blush. Greater Wellington raises around $130 million in rates and other revenues from local families and businesses each year, and gets about $140 million in subsidies from central government. And around 70% of that income goes straight back out the door in public transport subsidies, a job that certainly doesn’t require a Chair, 12 Councillors and a matching bureaucracy to oversee. A further 20% of Greater Wellington’s expenditures are in water supply and flood protection, a job that already has the inter-Council coordination of Capacity.

The Wellington City Council seems to agree. In three of its four options for local government reform, the regional council would be abolished. (The other option is for no change at all – something which will surely gather little support.) The council is seeking community input – with a deadline of 29 June.

It has rejected a regional council proposal for a panel of experts to say what needs to be done. Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says a majority of her council want a community-led process open to different views and options, “rather than a panel of worthy independent people.

“There is wisdom in our community from grassroots to academics. We want to hear from all parts of our cosmopolitan communities. And I, along with most of my colleagues, don’t want to cede our political responsibilities to an unelected panel. I want to hear from Wellingtonians first.”

The Hutt City Council confirmed today that it, too, is backing input from the community rather than experts. Mayor Wallace said that his council had declined an approach from the regional council. It seems that Porirua is the only city which has agreed to become involved with the regional council’s panel of experts. But will it be willing to listen to its community as well?

March 26: The race for local government reform

March 26: Wellingtonians must have clear choices

March 3: Why the regional council should be abolished

February 23: Government wants to abolish regional council


  1. Donald McGregor, 18. May 2012, 12:48

    The Regional Council’s proposal also advocated getting rid of the Regional Council …. the only recommendation of their’s that makes sense.

    Seems like everyone is on the same page, so “Just Do It”

  2. Michael, 21. May 2012, 9:52

    My experience of the Regional Council is that its lack of accountability is appalling. There are councillors who actively flaunt the fact that they are not accountable to the much of the region that they are responsible for.


    When the council’s Economic Wellbeing Committee voted in favour of the Basin flyover, I wrote to regional councillors and said that I did not think that the Council had sought or received a mandate from Wellington residents to progress the proposal. I said that I am a resident of south Wellington and am therefore have a strong interest in the subject.

    In response, Councillor Peter Glensor (chair of the committee in question) wrote back with a glib response saying that “As I am a representative of the Lower Hutt constituency I suspect you won’t be in a position in any case” to affect his future election, as I vote outside his constituency.

    I thought this was terrible. When councillors actively thumb their noses at the people who are affected by their decisions, there is something rotten in the system.

  3. Ronald M. Oliver, 23. May 2012, 15:26

    Whatever views you or I might have on the subject of abolishing Regional councils, it seems that they will mean little or nothing in the face of the National Party’s present policy. Their plans to downsize regional and local representation and reduce costs of local body operations have continued unabated since they were elected. The introduction of earlier legislation involving centralizing of resource consents followed by the Auckland Super City arrangement and the Sacking of Environment Canterbury should have sounded warning bells.
    The worst is yet to come with retrenchment schemes involving outsourcing and the sell off of public assets.