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The mayors will decide?

by Lindsay Shelton
While planning to change the roads at Basin Reserve continues as secretively as ever, the region’s mayors have started some secret meetings of their own – to decide how local government should be restructured after the massive rejection of amalgamation.

All we know about Basin planning is that there was a meeting of a “governance group” on September 8, and three days later there were promises that the planning would involve the community. Since then, nothing.

The first news of the mayoral meetings was released this afternoon by the Local Government Commission, which is making similar promises about “going back to the communities.” But not yet. So far, there have been only

a number of very constructive meetings at chief executive and mayoral level.

Specifically, five meetings with chief executives, and an unspecified number of meetings with the mayors. Upper Hutt’s Wayne Guppy, chair of the region’s Mayoral Forum, tells us more:

“While we recognise that our councils may have different constituencies and priorities, we also know that by working together there are improvements we can make to deliver a more competitive Wellington region. We are working with the Commission to look at how councils can work more effectively together on important council services like transport. We are establishing a timetable for regular meetings to progress our work together.’’

No mention of going back to the communities. Instead:

The Commission and the Mayoral Forum will short-list two or three packages of options and put them before the public in the first half of 2016.

With an expectation that final proposals would be announced in the middle of the year. And a promise (or a threat?) that

“There have been clear signals from Minster of Local Government Paula Bennett that she is prepared to legislate if the best options for change are outside the existing framework.’’

So what does the non-amalgamated future hold? Anything is apparently possible except for a single region-wide unitary council, which is not in the list of options that are “on the table.”

And what of council-controlled organisations, four of which are in the process of disappearing into the newly-created Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency? These entities, with their expensive separate offices and chief executives and boards of directors, were out of favour two years ago. But their time may be coming again. They’re shortlisted in the “range of opportunities” that our mayors and their chief executives are discussing on our behalf. That’ll be a topic for communities to talk about, if the chance ever comes.

6 comments:

  1. Curtis Nixon, 29. September 2015, 21:20

    Disestablish and dispose of the Greater Wellington Regional Council and councillors: divide its responsibilities, assets, and staff amongst the existing City and District Councils.

     
  2. James, 29. September 2015, 23:40

    I can’t understand how the Local Government Commission is getting involved in this at all. According to the legislation as I understand it, the Commission can only respond to proposals put to it. It does not have a role in developing new schemes for reorganisation.

     
  3. Esjay, 30. September 2015, 8:15

    Here we go again. Since when has the Mayoral Forum had the status to dictate what the public can be consulted on? Seems as if they committed funding to the Airport Runway extension without prior consultation. Now they are at it again, working behind closed doors to make a decision without public consultation. Just who do they think they are?

     
  4. Chris Gray, 1. October 2015, 10:29

    Curtis obviously has not considered what the regional council actually does. Does he think splitting public transport in to 8 parts would result in an effective network wide approach to this service? No, individual TAs don’t have the framework or mandate to make sensible decisions on services that cut across these arbitrary borders? Does he think that Upper Hutt or Hutt city would invest in providing bulk water to WCC and Porirua if they didn’t have the legal mandate to do so? and if they did would the price of water be different? Would the flood protection measures be effective on the Hutt river if Upper Hutt and Hutt city decided on different levels of investment and protection? As a regional entity, GWRC can consider the whole river so the whole solution is effective and not compromised because one TA chooses to or can’t afford to provide an appropriate design standard.

    Whereas the regional council has mostly separate activities that are delivered for the region’s benefit, it’s the TAs that provide the same services as each other.

     
  5. City Lad, 2. October 2015, 7:44

    Mayors have a limited shelf life. Some have a used-by date of October next year. Voters don’t like arrogance and cull accordingly.

     
  6. Wellington Commuter, 2. October 2015, 11:28

    Chris, its interesting that you use water supply as one example justifying the existence of the Regional Council … because Wellington doesn’t get its water from them. Wellington gets it water service (and sewage service) from Wellington Water Ltd which is a Council Owned Organisation (COO). This is co-owned by city councils and the regional council but with its own board (http://wellingtonwater.co.nz/about-us/history-of-wellington-water/). So we get our water because the individual city councils can and have combined to cooperate separately from the GWRC.

    A COO for transport that is co-owned by the city councils IS a viable alternative to having the GWRC run PT. In theory the GWRC “can consider the whole” but in practice they operate almost independently from the cities to its own agenda. This is a key reason why our PT service, especially the bus service, doesn’t work properly with little prospect of getting better.