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Joint talks ‘positive and constructive’

Date: 8 December 2015

The Local Government Commission has been in discussions with the Masterton District, Carterton District, South Wairarapa District and Greater Wellington Regional councils on better local government for the Wairarapa.

“We are very pleased at the positive nature of the meetings so far,’’ said Commission Chair Sir Wira Gardiner. “All parties want to use this opportunity to have constructive discussions on the ways forward that we can discuss with the Wairarapa community next year.’’

In June this year, the Commission decided not to proceed with the proposal for a single unitary authority for the Wellington region, instead opting to return to Wairarapa and Wellington to do further work on the challenges facing councils and communities, and the potential options for meeting these.

This followed the applications in mid-2013 from the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the three Wairarapa councils for local government reorganisation. The Wairarapa application was for a single council for the area, doing the work of the district and regional councils, and building on the area’s history of collaboration and shared services.

Meetings between the councils and the Commission have focused on establishing a joint working relationship and have moved on to initiate discussions on options that could strengthen the area through better local government arrangements.

Carterton Mayor John Booth said: “I'm really pleased that the process we're now in has all of us around the same table – including the regional council and the Commission. This has meant we can have the same conversation focused on what's best for the Wairarapa.

“I am hopeful we can get to the point of having options we all agree about, to discuss with our communities.’’

Regional Council Chair Chris Laidlaw added: “There is a very refreshing willingness to examine ways that we can work together more closely on the bigger cross-boundary issues that our councils are faced with, and I certainly welcome that.

“I now feel certain that we can achieve more cost-effective integration of effort without compromising local autonomy in the Wairarapa and that is, after all, what everybody wants.’’

Sir Wira said further meetings will be held early in the New Year to discuss the potential local government models for consultation with the Wairarapa public.

Following public discussion of the options, the Commission is aiming to ensure the Wairarapa community has clarity about their future local government arrangements in mid-2016, well before the local body elections in October 2016.

 Any new arrangements would not be implemented until after the elections.

“We look forward to working further with the councils and the Wairarapa community in the best interests of the area,’’ Sir Wira said.