Wellington Scoop

Two options, or three?

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.

Wairarapa mayors reject Palmer plan

Lords and ladies – the debate about local government reform


  1. Cr Paul Bruce, 4. November 2012, 18:17

    Yes, 10 councillors and one mayor is too few for a region wide council. The next step up would be 19 councillors and one mayor, and would be far more representative – that would be 7 Councillors for Wellington, 2 or 3 for Porirua, 2 for Kapiti and Wairarapa, 6 for Hutt Valley.

  2. andy foster, 4. November 2012, 23:22

    Hi Paul – not quite – on population basis Wellington would need 8, Hutt Valley 6, Porirua and Kapiti and Wairarapa 2 each. Otherwise there is too great a disparity (Wellington City at 7 cllrs is 1 cllr per 28,600, Hutt 1 per 24,080, Kapiti and Porirua 1 per 24,900 and 1 per 26,350 respectively, Wairarapa 1 per 40,560. With 8 cllrs Wellington would be 1 per 25,025) – so 20 total.

  3. Thomas Dolby, 5. November 2012, 8:46

    If parliament, using Palmer’s panel, is going to illegally change our local governance, then we will have even more unhealthy council decisions, e.g like in the past when Fran Wilde sold our lines company for a fraction of its real value. So I say the less councillors at the “supercity’s no democracy feeding big pigs trough” the better.

  4. traveller, 5. November 2012, 17:46

    I agree with Andy and Paul. Ten councillors wouldn’t be enough. And the idea of Wellington as a minority … unthinkable. But there’s still some sorting out to do. Paul wants 19 councillors plus the mayor. Andy suggests twenty councillors plus the mayor. But city council staff have said they’re recommending 29 plus the mayor. Who’s in charge? What’s the procedure for reaching a decision?

  5. Lindsay, 5. November 2012, 19:27

    The Wellington City Council seems to be dragging its heels in reaching a decision on local government reform. Strange that the staff released their recommendation (to the DomPost last week) before councillors have made up their minds. In the interim, the Palmer report stands alone and gets all the attention … Except for the Wairarapa, where the three mayors are united in their refusal to merge with Wellington,

  6. andy foster, 6. November 2012, 0:29

    Traveller – just to be clear, I wasn’t suggesting 20, just saying that under the ‘Palmer’ model, if instead of 10 councillors a larger number (Paul suggested 19) was intended then the number has to be 20. 19 just doesn’t work for the simple reason of relative population sizes. The only way you could make 19 work would be to start reallocating bits of existing cities to other cities – which would clearly split communities of interest. There is a fundamental democratic principle here, and that is that everyone’s vote has to be worth as close as possible to the same, which means electorate sizes must be more or less the same in terms of number of voters per councillor.

    Lindsay. As far as I know no Council, including GWRC, has come to a formal view as to which option they prefer. We all had the Palmer report last week. There is a Regional meeting of Councils, and before that I would have thought it unwise for any Council to come to a formal position. Individual Mayors and Chairs may have expressed views, but those won’t necessarily represent the views of their respective Councils. In terms of ‘dragging feet’ there does seem to be a desire in this country to get immediate commitment on issues that perhaps might warrant a more considered view. It might make good media, but not necessarily good decision making.

    Warmest regards


  7. Thomas Dolby, 6. November 2012, 11:08

    A dysfunctional and problematic regional council running Wellington with a lord mayor. OMG, how can you all accept this rubbish…
    There is nothing democratic about this supercity ( & lord mayor) process.

  8. Lindsay, 6. November 2012, 11:08

    Andy: thanks for the clarification. However, the Palmer report does seem to have somehow established itself as exactly what is wanted by the regional council. In the photo of Fran and Nick at the launch, it looked as if they had already given it their seal of approval. Will their councillors obediently follow their leaders?

  9. LeftAucklandForThis?, 6. November 2012, 12:05

    Actually Mr Foster, Palmer proposes 79 elected people in his report, not just the 11 you refer to. I think that resistance to change is the biggest problem of elected people – over 100 elected people and it’s a mess. I don’t want to see Wellington do what Auckland did with local boards, it’s a mess up there. The Council works fine, the next layer down doesn’t. I don’t want a powerless Mayor being paid a large sum of money to be in charge of services that the regional council has already made decisions on, jobs for the boys again.

  10. Michael Gibson, 6. November 2012, 12:07

    The problem with what some people have said (including the odd Councillor) is that GW has just voted to have 14 elected members, then (when it was pointed out that this meant having two from the Wairarapa) they voted for thirteen.
    So it is not exactly obvious that “the Palmer report (proposes) exactly what is wanted by the regional council.”
    The voting on numbers by GW was ridiculous, which is why I have made a formal objection to the Local Government Commission that there are ten Councillors only.
    Since I am the only objector, I wonder why Andy Foster & Co did not also propose ten instead of just writing about it?
    Is it because they are certain that the 2013 election will be postponed?

  11. andy foster, 6. November 2012, 21:26

    ‘Left Auckland For This’ – welcome to Wellington ! Seriously though Paul Bruce was referring to the number of ‘super Councillors’ (ie the Palmer proposal of 10) Paul suggested 19. All I was trying to say was what I thought was a very simple concept that 19 doesn’t work – 20 does. At the risk of over-stressing the point I was not advocating that, or indeed any other option, simply providing information, which I hope might be helpful to people considering regional governance.

    None of us referred to the Local Councils that Sir Geoffrey is proposing, and yes he is proposing those as well. I do think that they look very much like Auckland’s Local Boards, just with another name and with some yet to be defined statutory responsibilities.

    I’m interested in what you say about the local boards in Auckland being a mess. Certainly I’ve heard a wide range of views. I was surprised by Local Board members’ talking about the extent of their workload and time to do that work. I think there would be a great deal to be gained by getting a better understanding of what is good about the Auckland model and what isn’t – and I don’t think we have that understanding yet – simply Auckland Council is too young.

    Michael – I haven’t proposed anything, 10, 13,14, 20 or any other number or structure. I tend to have the quaint view that you get the information and then make a decision, not make the decision first and then look for information to support it. What I do think is that the people of the Wellington region need to have sufficient information so that we can all participate in making a decision about the model we want.