Wellington Scoop

Whose voices would be silenced?

Fran Wilde and her supporters are ramping up their campaign for the Wellington region to merge into one super city. But her fierce powers of persuasion have not been able to silence the voices of dissent.

The most recent comments are “absolute nonsense,” says the mayor of Lower Hutt Ray Wallace, in the DomPost this morning.

“It’s part and parcel of their agenda … they are pushing what they want and that’s a super-city,” says the mayor of Upper Hutt Wayne Guppy. Later in the day he had much more to say.

The campaign promoting a supercity reached a new level last week when Jane Davis, a staff member of the Wellington Regional Council, said Wellington was “difficult to deal with because it had too many voices speaking at once.”

Her sentiments were repeated at the weekend by the Wellington Employers Chamber of Commerce, whose chief executive Raewyn Bleakley said: “Too many voices … are crowding out a clear, consistent message.”

They both seemed to be repeating the message of Chairman Fran. And it’s repeated again today in the DomPost’s editorial. But if there’s to be the clear and consistent message which they want, then whose voices will have to be silenced?

The two Hutt mayors are clear that they don’t want their two cities to be sucked into one supercity. They are however on record as saying they’ll support one administration instead of two for the Hutt Valley. The same message has come from the three Wairarapa mayors. They say they’re ready for one Wairarapa administration. But they don’t want to be a small part of something bigger.

It’s harder to find such a precise message from the Wellington City Council, which seems to be trying to sit on both sides of the fence. Some observers were surprised when the city council joined the working party set up by Fran Wilde to push her supercity agenda. The working party came up with the “flyover recommendation” – it’s consulting on only two options and both of them are a super city. Not surprising, then, that the city council has broadened its consultation and has added the status quo to the choices that it’s asking locals to think about. But it hasn’t been able to throw a lifeline to what the Hutt mayors want, because Wellington councillors inexplicably voted down the three-city option.

How true is the claim being made repeatedly by Fran Wilde and Jane Davis and Raewyn Bleakley that the government is hearing too many voices from Wellington? The question was put to the Prime Minister at his weekly press conference last night. He didn’t seem to agree with them. Here’s what he said, as reported by Anne Russell for Scoop:

Key was asked whether or not the government found it difficult to deal with numerous Wellington local government bodies at once, as compared to the Auckland supercity structure. He said that Wellington was smaller, and that any amalgamation plans would have to be led by the Wellington City Council.

Fran Wilde won’t be happy that the Prime Minister wants amalgamation plans to be led by the city council. All her efforts are clearly aiming to position the regional council as the leader of the pack. This is no doubt because the government has indicated it intends to abolish regional councils. And because the Wellington City Council’s options agree with this abolition.

Which raises another question that’s being discussed around town. Faced with the disappearance of the regional council which she chairs, is Fran Wilde thinking about standing for the Wellington mayoralty? Would she really want to return to the position which she held for three years in the 1990s? Does she see herself as the one voice of the super-city, who would silence all the other voices?

Fran versus Celia?


  1. Sridhar, 23. April 2013, 16:03

    What is wrong with the people of the region deciding on the future, instead of just these three ladies obviously with some vested interests.

  2. JC, 23. April 2013, 17:22

    Where in John Key’s comment have you found support for the assertion that “he didn’t seem to agree with them”? His words seem to me to be a typical politician’s response – i.e. a response without suggesting anything either way.

    In any event, when Fran Wilde etc talk about “the government”, I suspect they are not talking about “John Key”! He may be the figurehead, but would have little experience of the day-to-day issues which the government faces when dealing with Wellington.

  3. Curtis Nixon, 23. April 2013, 19:26

    What puzzles me is the basis of the opposition to a Wellington megacity – it all seems to come from an ‘all change is bad’ position. I am going through a complaint about how the Snapper card is structured at present and what’s the first thing that happens – Snapper says “WCC makes the rules” but the reply from WCC is “the Regional Council administers public transport” and forwarded my complaint to them. May as well been sucked into a black hole.
    This is why I support a megacity. I don’t want to meet my councillors or go to clinics or meetings – I will participate in online processes only, so all the rest of the duplication and triplication and quadriplication is just waste paid for by rates.

  4. Rufus Sixsmith, 23. April 2013, 21:24

    @Curtis: you have been moaning about Local Government for so long that I’m amazed that you don’t know that public transport is a GWRC responsibility (It is even more surprising if Snapper thought that WCC set the rules!).

  5. John Clarke, 23. April 2013, 21:40

    If the Wellington region needs to talk to the government of the day with one voice, the question has to be asked why Fran Wilde hasn’t been doing this already.

    She’s been chairperson of the REGIONAL council since before the dinosaurs roamed the earth, and she’s apparently been an MP before that. If anyone should know their way around parliament and be able to influence government policy, it’s her.

    Giving Fran a new title and a few more baubles of office won’t alter the fact that she’s been rubbish at promoting the Wellington REGION – did I mention that she’s been REGIONAL council goddess-in-chief since NZ was attached to Gondwanaland – otherwise we’d have a much higher profile at the Beehive.

    So it’s not clear to me why someone who’s so ineffective at being our REGIONAL chairperson would be any more effective if they were in charge of a super city.

  6. Sambo, 24. April 2013, 1:03

    Curtis, Snapper is owned by Infratil, no one else. Remember when it was introduced, all the faults were with the consumers, not the operator. Look at the way Infratil operates the Airport – same difference. And Trust Power – everything it touches, it is all about greed !!!
    As for Fran, she was in Parliament for 12 years, she was there when Labour lurched to the right in ’84 – ’90. She was happy to sell off assets.
    Then she became Mayor of Wellington for 1 term. The only thing she did was sell off Capital Power. She didn’t seek re-election. Since then, the value of that business has quadrupled in value. The losers have been the people of Wellington. Would you trust her with your bank account ??
    After that she had a stint in the free market, before returning to Council, this time the Regional one, first as a Councilor, then as Chairperson. The only thing she knows how to do, is borrow and spend. No accountability whatsoever. Shocking. Socking it to the ratepayers !!!

  7. Traveller, 24. April 2013, 8:21

    Whose voices? It sounds as if Fran wants to silence the voices of the Hutt Valley. And has she silenced the voice of Wellington already? Where’s Celia’s response?

  8. Polly, 24. April 2013, 14:55

    And dont forget she promoted Blumsky to take her place as Mayor so she could push through 22 new buildings on the waterfront when she was on the Lambton Harbour Board……

  9. Curtis Nixon, 25. April 2013, 13:18

    Dear Rufus and Sambo, thanks for your kind comments but you are both missing the point I am trying to make – councils, CCos and the private operators they partner with can fudge proper accountability and transparency by splitting areas of responsibility over multiple bodies – that way they can pass the buck whenever it suits them. I am no fan of Fran but at a certain point you have to move past personalities and look at core concepts regardless of those fronting them. A super-city is a good idea in so many ways and will reduce the ability of bureaucrats to hide behind artificial separations of power and administrations.
    Rufus, what about posting your abuse under your real name instead of as a movie character. Plus the bus discount card I applied for is issued by WCC on behalf of GWRC and some people with disabilities can have the discount loaded onto their Snapper.
    Sambo, who are you? I know about Infratil, they are shockers and I agree about the price-gouging way they run the buses and the airport.

  10. Curtis Nixon, 25. April 2013, 13:19

    Celia Wade-Brown would be the best mayor of a Wellington mega-city.

  11. Ross Clark, 4. May 2013, 3:55

    I think some sort of super-city is inevitable. Wairarapa ended up with three councils in 1989 because the two councils in the Carterton area amalgamated in advance, when one council for the whole of the Waiarapa would actually have worked better. In the late 1990s I heard a professor of planning say that New Zealand was trending towards ‘twenty or so’ unitary councils – Scotland has 32, for a population of 5m, and the councils here have much more responsibility – and I can think of a lot more councils which are in line for amalgamation (Southland, Taranaki, Nelson’s two, the West Coast, Northland …).