Bex Johnson with a petition calling for an poll on planned amalgamation. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN
Signatures are now being gathered throughout all three territorial local authority areas in Wairarapa seeking to test the Local Government Commission’s merger proposal by holding a referendum.
Petitions have been organised in Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa with the object of getting 10 per cent of electors, being residents and non-resident ratepayers, in any one of those districts signed up, thereby forcing a poll across the entire Wairarapa.
In Masterton, the joint petition organisers are Richard Dahlberg and Bex Johnson and the major collection point for signatures is Masterton Library.
Mrs Johnson said she and Mr Dahlberg were urging eligible voters to sign up.
We consider it is important for the people to decide whether or not we should amalgamate and not to just leave the decision to the Local Government Commission,” she said.
Mrs Johnson said although the library is the petition’s focus she would welcome people in retail businesses who wanted to have petition forms to acquire them.
Mr Dalhberg said it was important to have a poll so everybody could have their say about the future of local governance.
It was about local democracy, he said.
“I’m asking people to sign the petition regardless of their views.”
There were three great communities that certainly needed to work together, he said.
“We need to work together, but whether we need to work together under the umbrella of some great big bloody monstrous organisation – I’ve got my doubts.”
In Carterton, the petition was being organised by Jill Greathead with the main collection points being in Heart of Arts and the Carterton Events Centre.
There had been lots of signatures in Carterton, she said.
“I would imagine we have 300 or 400 signatures already.”
They needed to get at least 666 signatures in Carterton, she said.
But when collecting petition signatures, it was advised to get well above the required number in case some signatures were invalid.
“We won’t stop collecting until we are at least over 1000.”
The coordinated effort between petition organisers would be launched more formally next week, with an updated website and leaflet hand out, she said.
In Martinborough, Kitchener’s Cafe owner Sue Sullivan set up a petition on behalf of the South Wairarapa district.
“I just felt it needed to be done for the sake of democracy.”
Personally, Mrs Sullivan would prefer the status quo.
“There’s arguments for and against. But at the end of the day it’s not really about what I think, it’s about everybody getting to have their say.”
As well as at Kitchener’s Cafe and Pain & Kershaw in Martinborough, copies of the petition are in Featherston at Adamson’s Service Station and Loco Coffee and Books. A copy is also in Greytown.
South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier said regardless of what people’s views were on amalgamation, she encouraged people to sign a petition in their district.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re for or against it, get out and put your name to a piece of paper to make sure there’s a poll — that’s the fairest way to work out which way to go forward.”
The Commission’s final proposal aims to amalgamate the three district councils to become Wairarapa District Council and for Greater Wellington Regional Council to remain as the regional council for Wairarapa with the addition of a Wairarapa committee.
Should a petition succeed in forcing a poll then 50 per cent or more of those who have signed up and been validated as eligible would need to support the commission’s proposal for it to go ahead.
Should 50 per cent of more oppose the final proposal then it would be scrapped and the status quo would remain.
Petition organisers have until October 11 to present a valid petition to the commission.