Date: 4 December 2014
The most significant reforms of a generation are proposed for councils in the Wellington region, under a draft proposal released by the Local Government Commission. Public submissions are now being sought, with a deadline of 2 March 2015.
A new unitary authority, the Greater Wellington Council, is proposed. It would take over the functions of the existing nine councils: Masterton District Council; Carterton District Council; South Wairarapa District Council; Upper Hutt City Council; Hutt City Council; Wellington City Council; Porirua City Council; Kapiti Coast District Council, and the Greater Wellington Regional Council.
The new council would have a shared decision-making structure. Power would be shared between the governing body (a mayor and 21 councillors) and 60 members of local boards. The mayor would be elected by voters of greater Wellington. Councillors and local board members would be elected from eight defined geographic areas.
The mayor and councillors would be responsible for high-level decisions affecting all of Wellington. The local boards would control council budgets and decisions for local matters in established communities. Local boards would be created for Wairarapa; Upper Hutt; Lower Hutt; Kapiti Coast; Porirua-Tawa; Ohariu; Lambton; and Rongotai.
Commission chair Basil Morrison said the shared decision-making model of a unitary authority with local boards was the best of several options considered by the Commission.
“Local boards ensure the ‘local’ is preserved in local government,” Mr Morrison said. “They are an integral component of the council structure. Board members would be elected to speak for residents from defined areas and in turn would govern those areas with their own budgets and certain powers.”
“We found there were many aspects of local government which had worked well till now. But we also recognised there are limitations, inadequacies and challenges. Perhaps most importantly, strong economic and cultural factors inter-connect the region and give it a common future goal. There is a case for change. We have proposed a structure of local government to best meet the needs of the people of the entire region over the next 30 years,” Mr Morrison said.
“This proposal offers the greatest opportunity to address the significant future issues facing the region. Wellington must address challenges of investment in infrastructure, changing demographics, the need for economic development, and management of the impact of natural hazards and climate change. These issues are regional in scale and require regional responses,” Mr Morrison said.
Some of the key points of the draft proposal include:
The applications for reorganisation of Wellington councils were made by Masterton District Council, Carterton District Council, South Wairarapa District Council and the Greater Wellington Regional Council, in 2013.