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A super duper city

by Helene Ritchie
As long ago as April 2009, I wrote that Wellington was already a super duper city. For the next six years I continued to write submissions and articles addressing different aspects of why we do not need s super city like Auckland’s. And this week the powers that be agreed. There will be no Wellington supercity.

One of the arguments, for some incomprehensible reason, has been that we needed to compete with and be like Auckland. What I wrote in 2009 still largely stands.

Wellington, New Zealand’s only vibrant metropolitan centre, is already a super duper city. We are not Auckland. We do not follow Auckland. We lead and we have led for many years.

Six years ago, the Royal Commission proposed the Auckland super city. But, as I wrote:

“The Government has proposed a huge monolithic bureaucracy – one “Super Council”; diminished democracy; abolished city councils; abolished local bodies with fiscal responsibility (other than the Super Council); diminished Maori and Pacific Island representation; rejected the Commission’s innovative focus on social wellbeing; rejected a shared governance model, rejected specific focus on their waterfront; created 20-30 community boards, more impotent than the local Plunket. The outcome is the worst of all worlds.”

That is not unlike what was later proposed for Wellington and is now abandoned.

No cumbersome “Super City” will ever provide the focus that Wellington has achieved.

Unlike Auckland, we have:

A heart: a world class Civic Centre and city focus, with heritage and cultural and concert buildings, a library, fine architecture and public spaces. The Capital’s heart is strong and has good arteries, good veins. No need for transplant or bypass, just some nutrition in parts of the body.

A visually and physically accessible waterfront where people flock to recreate in an energetic and a leisurely way.

A vibrant city that is lively, liveable, walkable, compact,

A sense of place, identity and purpose, effective and transparent democratic processes of accountability, responsive to the cultural and socioeconomic diversity of the City and the region.

A people, passionate about government, and democracy, rising up to defend the public good, social justice and environmental issues; and time and again, at personal cost, going to the Courts to protect their waterfront.

A city that does not look or feel dysfunctional and is not.

A (9 Councils agreed) regional economic strategy developed in conjunction with central government, business, education, research and voluntary sectors and includes Broadband extension, and today focused into a regional economic organisation. (WREDA)

A coordinated accessible well patronised public transport system (which today we can now get on with improving, without superCity distraction)

Initiatives and recognition of our natural capital, our natural environment

An innovative cultural and events capital.

A local democracy, at the heart of Wellington’s civic government, where the passion and the priorities come from the people.

A very good model of civic democratic governance in Wellington, which mostly works very well in the provision of services, and in planning for the future;.

But nothing is ever perfect and there is work to be done.

Any change in future, should be measured, not foisted with unseemly haste on the people,

In the final analysis, there was no pressing case for radical restructure of local government in Wellington and especially in these times of already significant social upheaval.

Auckland submitters to the Royal Commission, when asked what a world class city would be, said “like Wellington” !

My plea now is simple, “ Do not destroy this super duper city. Leave well alone.”

Helene Ritchie is the longest serving City councillor in Wellington, and portfolio leader for Natural Environment. She is a Health Board member; the former first woman deputy mayor of the capital; a founding member of the Wellington Regional Council in 1980 and 1989; a founding member of Capital and Coast District Health Board (2001); and a former Chair of the Airport Authority for eight years.