News release from Wellington Region Local Government Review Panel
The Wellington region needs a revised local government structure that provides stronger regional leadership and more inclusive local democracy, according to the Wellington Region Local Government Review Panel.
In its final report, issued today, the independent Panel recommended a new Greater Wellington Council be established, led by a Lord Mayor elected by the region, and six Local Area Councils, to manage local issues and maintain strong democracy at a community level.
“The gaps identified in the Wellington region flow from things that are not being done or cannot be done effectively under the present structure of local government silos. There are important functions that need to be planned, performed and delivered at a regional level,” Panel chair Sir Geoffrey Palmer said in launching the report.
Sir Geoffrey said the new structure was “no Super City” but was focused on addressing “the duplication, inefficiencies and lack of coordination in the Wellington region’s current local governance arrangements”.
“This is not an Auckland model. What we have fashioned is a model for the region, based on geography and conditions and designed to address the deficiencies that currently exist here.”
There are currently 107 elected mayors and councillors in the Wellington region. The Panel’s recommendation would result in 28 fewer mayors and councillors, and reducing the number of chief executives in the region from nine to one.
“The new structure responds directly to the needs of individual communities and the wider pressures facing the region. The Panel firmly believes that demand for world-
class infrastructure including airports, ports, roads, buses, trains, and cycleways, requires a well-organised regional approach.” Sir Geoffrey said.
The report states: “There is a vital need to develop regional strategies with a long-term commitment to regional delivery and to avoid multiple and uncoordinated approaches to infrastructure planning. Integration between transport and land use planning is particularly critical”.
Sir Geoffrey said the Panel had explicitly rejected the so-called Brisbane option because it would fail to address the issues that the citizens and ratepayers of the region had identified.
“The Panel is of the view that a Brisbane-type of solution would not meet the requirements of the political culture in this region. An amalgamation of the whole area into one City would involve what the Panel considers to be a triple weakness: an intolerable loss of local democracy; a fracturing of local sense of community; and the absence of a regional perspective for the entire region,” he said.
Instead, the Panel has recommended a change to an integrated two-tier local governance structure:
1. A regional decision-making body named the Greater Wellington Council, led by a Lord Mayor (elected by the whole region), and 10 councillors, representing constituencies based on the current territorial boundaries. The proposed distribution of seats is:
• Lord Mayor, elected at large 1
• Central Wellington 4
• Lower Hutt 2
• Upper Hutt 1
• Porirua 1
• Kapiti 1
• Wairarapa 1
2. A local tier of decision making in the form of six Local Area Councils, using the same boundaries as exist now, except for Wairarapa, where the three councils would combine into one. The six new Local Area Councils would be responsible for local engagement and advocacy, improving local amenity and design, managing local community facilities and parks, and the delivery of quality local services. Each Local Area would retain a mayoral figurehead, elected by their councillor peers.
Other recommendations include:
• A single rating system administered by the Greater Wellington Council
• Rates increases restricted for three years, with no increases beyond those necessary to pay for already committed works and to give time for the new rating system to be properly designed and consulted upon
• All councillors at all levels would be eligible for no more than three terms of four years each, after which they would be required to stand down
Sir Geoffrey said the new structure should help halt the decline of the region.
“The Wellington region seems to have lost its way in recent years. A decade ago, the Wellington region was recognised as being at the forefront of governance, vision and place – with new development initiatives, including the Westpac Stadium, Wellington Waterfront, Te Papa, Pataka, the Dowse and Expressions.” Sir Geoffrey said.
“We had forward-thinking planning and urban design approaches – award-winning village planning and main street upgrades. We saw new cultural events and innovative marketing – Martinborough wine, Absolutely Positively Wellington, the Sevens and the World of Wearable Art. There was the foundation of a new and exciting film industry in Miramar. Today, there is a feeling that the region is living on these past glories,” he said.
Sir Geoffrey said the Panel’s recommendations reflected the feedback it had received through public meetings, the submission process and meetings with stakeholders, including territorial local authorities.
The Panel has undertaken public meetings throughout the region and received more than 230 submissions. The Panel met with all nine councils over the period of consultation and was given access to submissions received by those councils in their separate consultation process.
The Panel also consulted carefully on how Māori issues and engagement can best be served.
The Panel’s final report will now be considered by Greater Wellington Regional Council and Porirua City Council as part of their response to a signal from central government that it is intending to make changes to the Local Government Act 2002 on how local government operates and manages its business.
The full report is online here