Draft proposal for Wairarapa District Council: call for public submissions

15 Mar 2017

The Local Government Commission is calling for submissions on a draft proposal to change the structure of councils in the Wairarapa. Commission Chair Sir Wira Gardiner says the proposal - for a combined Wairarapa District Council - follows extensive collaborative work by the Commission and the Wairarapa councils, with the public, in developing options for local government in the district.

“For almost two years, following the shelving of the Super City proposal, the Commission has worked with local government leaders and the public in the Wairarapa to develop a structure for the district that will best promote good local government, meet community interests and aspirations, and facilitate economic performance.

“In developing the detail of the proposal we built on work done by the three Wairarapa councils in their 2013 application to the Commission for a combined unitary council,’’ Sir Wira said. “We maintained open and constructive relationships with the Wairarapa mayors and councillors; we had independent experts test various options using agreed facts and base figures; we held numerous public meetings and engagement events across the district to meet and talk to residents and ratepayers, seeking their views on the preferred form of local government for the district.

“We conducted our own survey and commissioned an independent one to seek further views. In each case a majority of respondents preferred some form of combined district council.’ 

 Following that public mandate, and continuing to work through critical issues with local government leaders, the Commission was now in a position to publish a draft proposal for a new council and was calling for submissions on it, Sir Wira said. Commission staff would be attending public information stands in the Wairarapa over the first two weekends in April, he added.

“We urge Wairarapa people to engage with what is proposed and let us know what you think about it.’’

All submissions would be considered and there would be an opportunity for submitters to present their views in person at public hearings in late May.  Any decision to move to a final proposal would be made once the Commission had heard and considered submissions on the draft proposal, Sir Wira said.

He added that the publication of the draft proposal and the call for submissions coincided with a line being drawn under the Commission’s work in the wider Wellington region, and a narrowing of focus to the Wairarapa.

“The Commission has completed technical reports on matters such as transport, water, economic development and spatial planning for the Wellington region. The fate of these and whether they will lead to substantive work in the future now lies with the various councils,’’ Sir Wira said.

What is proposed

A new council is proposed, called Wairarapa District Council. It would replace the existing three district councils: South Wairarapa District Council, Carterton District Council and Masterton District Council.

The new council would have a mayor, 12 councillors and 21 elected community board members. The mayor would be elected by voters across the Wairarapa district and councillors would be elected by voters in seven wards, including two rural wards. Community board members would represent five community boards: Featherston, Martinborough, Greytown, Carterton and Masterton.

For at least its first term, the new council would be required to have a Rural Standing Committee and a Māori Standing Committee as a means of promoting effective council representation for rural communities, and marae, hapū and iwi respectively.

The new Wairarapa District Council would be a territorial authority. The Wairarapa would remain part of the Wellington region with the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) continuing its current roles and responsibilities. There would be a new Wairarapa Committee of the GWRC to strengthen Wairarapa input into regional council issues affecting the district.

For at least five years, the new council would be required to maintain area offices in Martinborough, Carterton and Masterton. Staff would continue to be located in the area offices to ensure people can access council services across the district. The principal public office, an address for service, for the new council would be Masterton.

If the draft proposal proceeds to a final proposal, electors may petition for a poll. If a simple majority supports the proposal at the poll, the new Wairarapa Council could be elected in late 2018, at the earliest, and would serve an initial four-year term. See the draft proposal on the Wellington Region reorganisation page.

Website page: 2017 - Wellington Region reorganisation

Submissions are now invited with a deadline of 3 May 2017. Submissions should be made in writing addressed to:

The Chief Executive Officer

Local Government Commission,

 PO Box 5362, Wellington 6140

Email to: submissions@lgc.govt.nz.

Submitters can also fill in a Freepost submission form distributed to homes throughout the Wairarapa, download a submission form from www.lgc.govt.nz and post, or scan and email it, to the addresses above. Finally, submitters can also complete a submission form online at the Commission website. Submissions, minus personal information such as addresses, contact details or email addresses, will be made publicly available.

The process so far

May 2013:

  • Application for unitary council for the Wairarapa from Wairarapa councils

June 2013: 

  • Application for unitary council for the Wellington Region from the Greater Wellington Regional Council

December 2014:

  • Commission publishes draft proposal for unitary council for the Wellington region including Wairarapa

June 2015:

  • Commission decides not to proceed with proposal, but to return to communities to discuss other options for change

February 2016:

  • Public engagement – Commission holds public meetings to develop six options for local government change in the Wairarapa

June 2016:

  • Wairarapa Councils, Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Commission obtain an independent assessment of the six options

June - July 2016:

  • Public engagement – drop-in sessions, public meetings and surveys to gauge public views on the six options

July 2016:

  • Publication of summary of public feedback – a majority of people prefer a combined Wairarapa District Council

August 2016 - March 2017:

  • Further work on detail of possible combined Wairarapa District Council

15 March 2017:

  • Commission releases draft proposal and calls for submissions

What happens next

3 May 2017:

  • Closing date for submissions

23 May 2017:

  • Hearings begin

July - November 2017: 

  • Commission makes decision whether or not to release a final proposal. Timing will depend on the number and complexity of submissions. If there is a final proposal, electors may petition to require that a poll is held

November 2017 - April 2018: 

  • If there is a final proposal and a poll is sought, the poll would be held about three months after the validation of a poll petition

Early 2018, at the earliest:

  • If a poll endorses any such final proposal (or a poll is not called for), a Transition Body would be formed. This would include representatives of the three current Wairarapa councils

October 2018 - October 2019:

  • Election of the new council. If the new council were elected in October 2018, it would have an initial four-year term to bring it back into line with the three-yearly election cycle

October 2022:

  • Council election as part of the usual three-yearly cycle

Media contact:

Simon Cunliffe | Local Government Commission | Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua

DDI +64 4 474 8164| MOB +64 27 809 3833 | Simon.Cunliffe@dia.govt.nz 

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