Wellington Scoop

Frankenstein supercity put to death

by Ian Apperley
The Local Government Commission’s proposed Frankenstein of a supercity stretching from Masterton to Miramar has been put to death before it could rampage through the countryside killing peasants and mangling livestock. The beast isn’t quite dead yet, body parts may have escaped to attempt a Version 2.0, but for now we are safe.

The cost of this must be eye-watering and questions should be asked of the Local Government Commission’s capability to carry out any future work. Here’s what it announced today:

The Commission has decided not to proceed with its draft proposal for a single council in Wellington. Instead the Commission will return to those communities to work with them and seek to develop other options to address the challenges those regions face.

The Commission was told already. 90% of us said “no thanks Noddy” and have said that all the way through the process, which must have cost millions in lost time, stress, submissions, and consulting fees. Worse, early indicators before all the work had been carried out showed that we didn’t want it, 86% first poll. So for the LGC to wander on through their proceedings smacks of an arrogance of progress in my opinion.

Can we fire them and ask someone else to look at where to from now?

Grizzling aside, this is a great win for democracy in the Wellington Region. Thinking that you could force several different cities together all of whom have a rather unique identity was stupid to begin with. Masterton bears no similarity to Wellington, which bears no similarity to Kapiti. Any fool could have told you that, and 9,000 of us did.

The supporters of the amalgamation must be crying tears into their expensive single-malts tonight on lofty levels of consulting firms all over town.

Celia Wade-Brown is today taking the moral high-road and squeezing some political points from the decision:

“I’ve consistently said that Miramar to Masterton was too far for effective local democracy. The proposed two-tier system model separated the decision-making from the citizens of the region. Local boards were rightly regarded as toothless. This shows that views have been consistent over time, with a 2012 survey also showing a majority against one council for the whole region,” says Mayor Wade-Brown.

Now, politicians do tend to have the memories of goldfish, because she said this back in 2013:

Wellington’s re-elected mayor wants to push ahead with a merger of local councils but won’t say whether she would run as mayor of the super city. Wade-Brown supports a single-tier urban super council, without Wairarapa, with an elected mayor and 29 councillors elected to wards.

Pretty much what the LGC put up originally, despite the 2012 poll she refers today. Maybe she changed her mind.

Regardless, the near apocalyptic battle between Fran Wilde and Celia Wade-Brown is over. Like two Japanese monsters, gigantic dinosaurs of years gone by fighting in Tokyo Bay, one has been vanquished and the other left to slink back to its home island.

When you talked to residents in the various cities you gained a sense of two things. First, the Councils were roundly derided as idiots who were misspending our money as if it had actually grown on trees, and while that may be the view, second, they were our idiots and we had grown fond of them. Better the Devil you know.

We also knew that Auckland was a shambles and no amount of weasel words from Northern and Central politicians (both the same these days) was going to convince us that our rates weren’t going to go through the roof while our democratic rights disappeared into a black hole.

We also figured out that the entire region, like Auckland, would come to a standstill as the transition went ahead. And, that transition would cost us several hundreds of millions of dollars.

Sadly, the LGC and proponents thereof, either had their ideological blinkers on, were consumed by process, or stood to gain something out of the proposed disaster. We will never know. Nor will we know that this exercise has cost the taxpayer.

In my opinion, in the face of fierce opposition very early on in the process (it’s been years), the entire effort should have been dumped.

We can now return to the normal service of debating silly topics, not building cycleways, selling off the city assets, spending money on pet projects, and in-fighting.

Bliss. I really do mean that. We wouldn’t have it any other way. The WCC may be a lot of things, but it is accessible and always ready for a strong debate. They are our idiots and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We have grown fond of them.

This is a hard won victory for commonsense and democracy. This much is true. Here’s to the commonsense voices that have prevailed.

This article was first published today on Ian Apperley’s Strathmore Park blog.