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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 [1] “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 [2] 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 [3]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 [4]