Wairarapa people have spoken, and they have decided it’s a big “no” to merging the three district councils into one.

Voting ended at midday today and results showed residents agreed the best way for Wairarapa to move forward was to keep the Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils operating as separate entities.

With an estimated 97 per cent of the votes counted, 59 per cent of those who voted opposed the proposal, 41 per cent supported it.

Early phone surveys conducted by the Local Government Commission indicated Carterton and South Wairarapa residents showed opposition to the proposal, whereas a majority of Masterton residents were in favour of amalgamation.

Commission Chair Sir Wira Gardiner thanked the public of the Wairarapa for their participation in the poll and the constructive nature of the debate that preceded it.

“Ever since the Commission began working with the communities, councils and iwi in the Wairarapa we have enjoyed a positive relationship. People have engaged with us in a constructive and welcoming manner.

“Notwithstanding today’s result, I believe that our work has highlighted the need for the three councils to find efficient ways to work together to deliver better, more cost-effective and resilient services for their ratepayers.

“Our involvement in local government matters and possible options for the communities of South Wairarapa, Carterton and Masterton has brought critical issues into focus and underlined the need for, and advantages of, collaborating to meet shared challenges.’’

Voting got off to an extremely slow start, but picked up in the final few days, with 43.45 per cent of eligible voters having sent in their votes before Monday.

Had the amalgamation gone ahead, it would have seen the three councils merge into a single Wairarapa District Council no earlier than November 2018, with residents needing to elect one mayor.