By Don Farmer
A long-awaited blueprint for the future governance of Wairarapa has been released by the Local Government Commission (LGC) which would see the formation of a single Wairarapa District Council along with the retention of Greater Wellington Regional Council’s role here.
The LGC draft proposal would combine Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils while at the same time trimming back total councillor numbers from the existing 27 to 12, and installing a single mayor to replace the three current.
Counteracting this to some degree would be the formation of community boards in both Carterton and Masterton, having four and five elected members respectively.
South Wairarapa’s three community boards would all remain, each serving one of the three towns and each with four elected members.
Territorially the Wairarapa District Council would consist of wards for Masterton, Carterton, Greytown, Featherston and Martinborough, and would see the creation of two rural wards, one to be known as the Te Kauru ward and the other the Maungaraki ward.
Each of the rural wards would be represented by a single councillor but the proposal includes a plan to set up a Rural Standing Committee as a “channel for rural and coastal issues” to go before the council.
Under the proposal the regional council role would take on a higher profile than is now the case with a single Wairarapa councillor.
It is proposed to set up a 10-strong Wairarapa committee being four from the regional council, including the constituency councillor, four nominated by Wairarapa District Council, and one member each from Rangitane o Wairarapa and Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa.
Proposal far from final document
There would be an obligation on the new Wairarapa District Council to keep South Wairarapa’s existing Maori Standing Committee in place until at least 2022.
The proposal, while a major stepping stone in a process that began way back in May, 2013, is far from a final decision document.
People are now able to put in submissions on the draft, with those closing off on May 3 and hearings on them beginning three weeks later.
In the months following, the LGC will decide whether or not to release a final proposal and if it does then electors throughout Wairarapa will be at liberty to petition the LGC to hold a poll.
The call for a poll would have to come from a minimum of 10 per cent of voters in any one of the existing district council areas.
If a poll is not called for – or if one is and endorses the final proposal – then a Transition Board would be set up.
This would be made up of two councillors from each of the existing three district councils and an independent chairman, and would be an advisory body liaising with the LGC.
It would appoint an interim chief executive for the Wairarapa District Council and would remain in place until the new council was elected, which would be either in October next year or in October 2019.
If October next year is decided on then the first term of the new council would be a four-year one to bring it into line with the electoral cycle throughout the country, after which it would revert to three year terms.
The LGC has listed advantages and disadvantages in its draft document which are now available to electors at libraries throughout Wairarapa, the three councils, and at the Wairarapa Times-Age office.
The commissioners have made it clear the driving force for amalgamation is not cost savings as the proposal would bring about only “modest savings” of about $10 million in net savings over 10 years.
They have also stopped short of suggesting where a Wairarapa District Council headquarters should be based, if a head office is decided on at all.