Wellington Scoop

Fran versus Celia: flyover tactics, closed minds, and a super bureaucracy

by Lindsay Shelton
The Transport Agency’s no-choice tactics to promote a Basin Reserve flyover have evidently appealed to Fran Wilde and her supporters on the regional council’s local-government-reform working party. The working party has come up with two options for local government reform – and they’re both for a super city. They’re no-choice options.

No surprise that Celia Wade Brown has reminded us that public opinion has rejected such a plan. She says that Friday’s announcement of two super-city models “confirms people’s concerns that most [working party] participants had closed minds to alternatives.”

Regional councillor Daran Ponter is also critical. He sees the parallel with the tactics of the Transport Agency, which offered Wellington two no-choice options for the Basin Reserve – both of them a flyover. Similarly the working party:

“In a trick that has become all too familiar with Wellingtonians, the [Regional] Council are now proposing to undertake limited consultation on two options –
• Super City Option 1; and
• Super City Option 2.”

Councillor Ponter agrees with the Wellington mayor about what the public wants:

“Polls and submission processes have strongly indicated that people across the region want change, but not a super-city. [But] under the Working Party’s proposals the options that the community prefer, including the status quo, and the opportunity for a separate unitary authority in the Wairarapa, will not be presented to them. This is disingenuous and undemocratic”.

And Celia Wade-Brown, who sometimes seems to speak with more moderation than is needed, makes a plain statement of her reasons for not liking the super-city concept:

“I have consistently expressed reservations about a super-city from Miramar to Masterton or Owhiro Bay to Otaki. The larger an organisation, the more bureaucratic it can become and the greater the separation between elected members and their constituents…

“Other options exist for reform. Simplifying current arrangements by removing the Regional Council and having Councils working collaboratively where necessary – the Wellington Capital City, the Hutt Valley, Kapi-Mana (Kāpiti and Porirua) and the Wairarapa is appealing.

“Three or four Councils instead of nine would lead to streamlined decision making while still promoting and protecting local identity. Along with the Mayors of the Hutt Valley and the Wairarapa, I look forward to seeing more detail developed on this “multi-unitary” option.”

Removing (or abolishing) the Regional Council is not a new idea. It was heralded by Nick Smith when he wrote about the need for reform. And the city council included it in three of its four options for change.

But it’s obviously not an idea that appeals to the Regional Council and its chair.

Why the regional council should be abolished


  1. Trish, 11. March 2013, 9:19

    This Hobson’s choice consultation was used by Wellington Airport before NZTA’s effort. At least we avoided the Wellywood embarrassment which came last in the polling. But the people running the rigged exercise refused to count the write-in preferences for no sign, which should have won. Just to make sure of the flyover outcome, the government has moved the referee from the Environment Court to the EPA headed by Kerry Prendergast.

  2. Jeff K, 11. March 2013, 11:42

    I don’t believe what Wade-Brown says on this. Collaboration? The councils in Wellington have been trying to collaborate for years and it doesn’t work. Simple thing is, if the city is going to work, change is required to how the local government sector has structured itself. Wellington council will again come out and ask us a third or fourth time, what do you think we should do? Well, my response is this, you’ve asked so many times already and if you don’t know now then leave office.

    I’m tired of watching rates resource spent on stupid consultations that are designed to muddy the waters. I’ve looked at the papers on line, the analysis says that Wade-Brown’s ideas won’t work, they’ll cost and you know, when you’re elected… you’re elected to lead! Start leading.

    Wellington will be paralysed through analysis and self-interest again while the rest of the region moves on. If I could choose where my rates went, they’d pay more attention.

    I will vote for change simply because again, the Wellington elected can’t make a decision. How many times do you need the answers from us? I think the options make sense from what I have read, a close read shows that more than two councils in the region will be worse than what we have now. If our issue is to generate more grwoth, facilitate more jobs, make Wellington better than it is now… why would we want to entrench what is not really working right now?

    It’s worth reading what the papers say. I don’t think it’s a Hobson’s Choice scenario, I think it’s all that can really be considered. Muddying the waters on YET ANOTHER important decision is becoming the calling card of Wellington Council. I will do my best to change that when I vote in the next local elections.

  3. The City is Ours Inc., 11. March 2013, 11:59

    Trish: the Golden Mile Plan had five options. Option A was to do nothing; wonder how many people would have voted for that?

    Jeff: as of old, neither GW nor WCC have any say in what happens to State Highway 1, that’s why heritage Thorndon was demolished to progress the motorway in the sixties. Frank Kitts was honest and said he had no say in these matters. What makes us believe Celia or Fran are any different? It must be an election year.

  4. Tibi, 11. March 2013, 12:38

    One may be tired of all these ‘unwanted’ consultations. That usually leaves one with two reasons:
    1. You do not want to be asked as you can’t be bothered to think about the answer the will impact you
    2. You are one of those who doesn’t want to consult and make decisions about others without bothering to ask…

    I say this Supercity push provides no option and is an assault on democracy. Celia is right.

  5. Nick, 11. March 2013, 13:14

    Supercity? I hardly think one council for 490,000 people is a supercity. It’s just a city. They way the councils are arranged right now just doesn’t make sense. We use so many interconnected services. For many people, where they work comes under one council’s jurisdiction and where they live is another. How can that make sense when we’re taxed according to where we live only?

    Of course the regional council and city council are divided over the flyover; one looks after public transport and the environment the other manages roads and car parks.

    I commend the Regional Council who are in effect orchestrating their own destruction in an open and transparent manner.

  6. Guy, 11. March 2013, 18:49

    Nick – “It’s just a city.” But that’s the thing – it clearly isn’t a city. Stretching Wellington out to encompass Hutt, and Kapiti, and Wairarapa, and Porirua – there is not anything that bonds them together. they are extremely different places, that work in extremely different ways.

    There is huge total logic of joining up Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt, just as there is logic to joining up all the little councils in the ‘Rapa, but there is absolutely nothing that makes any logic to link one city over the mountain ranges that divide us.

    Rimutaka and Tararua ranges provide the logical, natural break points. Let them do their job.

  7. Curtis Nixon, 12. March 2013, 13:08

    Yes, the Rimutaka and Tararua ranges are the natural divides.
    Apart from that Nick is right in that many people live in one council’s range, work in another, and maybe have a holiday home in another. With good, fast cars and roads, internet and fast telecoms, the old geographical separations between the Hutts, Porirua, Kapiti and Wellington central have disappeared. I say one council for Wairarapa and one council for the rest of Wellington region. 29 councillors and a mayor. No silly community boards. No Regional Council.
    Celia for Mayor!

  8. Polly, 12. March 2013, 16:50

    And no Council Controlled Organisations whose meetings are not open to the ratepayers though they are paid handsomely by us.

  9. andy foster, 12. March 2013, 20:20

    Big assumption re CCOs Polly. Worth noting that Auckland has large number of CCOs – admittedly required by its establishment legislation. WCC has several too, most of which are not cross boundary.