Now the dust is settling, two competing rearrangements for running the Wellington region are lining up for a contest. Or is it three?
In one corner, the regional council has published the report from Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s panel which recommends that it should be the one body to govern us all. It even wants to keep its name – The Greater Wellington
Regional Council. And the report is specific about the numbers – it wants only ten councillors to set the rates and make all the important decisions for the region.
In the other corner, the Wellington City Council has consulted with the public about four options, without hiring any experts to tell it what it should be deciding. But it’s been given some advice anyway. One day before the Palmer report was released, there was an extraordinary leak to the DomPost, which reported that council staff are recommending the option which received 30 per cent support – one central organisation,
The city council’s consultation brought submissions from 1200 people, and 77 per cent of them want change. The greatest number of submissions (30%) liked the idea of one central council. This would involve abolishing the regional council. Which is what city council staff are supporting, with the added proposal that there should be up to 30 elected members – three times as many as proposed by Sir Geoffrey.
The regional council’s process didn’t involve nearly as much consultation. Its panel received only 234 submissions, though it also held 134 meetings with individuals and organisations. The panel hopes that all the local bodies will get together and form a united view. So far, there’s no sign of this happening.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown doesn’t like the two-tier Palmer plan, which would have six local area councils subservient to the one regional organisation. She says the Capital [with four elected representatives] would be in a minority in the top-tier decision-making process. She doesn’t think the public wants only 10 councillors plus the mayor making all the decisions for the region.
Councillor Iona Pannett says the ten elected councillors would have such a big workload that they’d have no time to engage with residents. Yet the local area councils would have little say in decision making.
Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace agrees. “The proposed 10 person regional council would make all the funding decisions for local communities and that is not good local democracy.” He doesn’t like any of the options. He wants the two Hutt Councils to merge, or else no change.
The status quo, it is obvious, is firmly in place in a third corner of the contest.