Date: 29 September 2015
Wellington region mayors, chair and the Local Government Commission are making good progress towards the next steps for Wellington local government, says chair of the Commission Sir Wira Gardiner.
“In June, the Commission took off the table a proposal to amalgamate all the councils of the region. While most people opposed the proposal, many expressed the need for change to meet Wellington’s future local government needs.
“The application process remained ‘live’ and we said then we intended instead to go back to the communities and consult with them on identifying the most pressing challenges for their region and arriving at consensus on the possible options for meeting them,’’ Sir Wira said.
“Since then there has been a reset in the relationship between the Commission and councils and we have had a number of very constructive meetings at chief executive and mayoral level.
“We are also meeting with the Wairarapa mayors to discuss their particular needs and have meetings planned with each council in the region.
“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.’’
Chair of the Wellington Regional Mayoral Forum Wayne Guppy said the meetings had been productive.
“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,’’ Mayor Guppy said.
“We are establishing a timetable for regular meetings to progress our work together.’’
Sir Wira said that the Commission and Mayoral Forum will short-list two or three packages of options and put them before the public in the first half of 2016.
“The councils and the Commission will announce our final proposals in mid-2016,” he said.
Mayor Guppy said that councils are keen to see the Commission’s process progressed and settled by mid next year.
“This has been a long running process and the community rightly expects us to get on with ensuring we have the best local government arrangements in place for the region.”
Q: How frequent are the meetings?
A: The chief executive of the Local Government Commission has met jointly with council chief executives five times since mid-June. Sir Wira Gardiner has met with the Wellington Region Mayoral Forum twice but with mayors individually on other occasions since he joined the Commission on 1 August.
Q: So how is this process different from the previous phase?
A: The Commission and the mayoral forum have established a collaborative process and each indicated willingness to work together. The Minister has also said she will legislate for options that have broad support but which are outside the scope of the governing legislation.
Q: What options are there?
A: All options are on the table except for a single region-wide unitary council. The range of possibilities could include different business structures or Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs), binding shared service arrangements, recalibrating roles and functions between regional councils and territorial authorities, even, where local communities support them, some smaller amalgamations.
Q: Is it possible the three Wairarapa councils could amalgamate?
A: It is a possibility but it is too early to say. There are however likely to be some differences in the potential options for the western Wellington councils and Wairarapa.
Q: Why has this work taken so long?
A: The reorganisation application has been in progress since May/June 2013 and people rightly expect the Commission and councils to get on with it. The Commission’s view is that announcing decisions in mid-2016 is reasonable, given the new approach of working collaboratively with councils.
Q: Why have the Commission and councils started with transport?
A: It is an important aspect of people’s lives and of local government responsibilities which crosses council boundaries. The Wellington Mayoral Forum also identified it as an important function that would benefit from councils working together more closely.
Q: Are you talking about a council controlled organisation (CCO) for transport?
A: It is too early to say, but it is one of a range of options being considered.