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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 [1] 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 [2], 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 [3] 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.