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Progress in merger talks

Two of Wairarapa’s councils are progressing with merger discussions, with the third sitting it out for now.

The news comes after a working group of representatives from Masterton District Council [MDC], Carterton District Council [CDC], and South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] recently met to look at options for closer cooperation.

Now, MDC Mayor Gary Caffell and CDC Mayor Ron Mark have confirmed their councils are in ongoing merger talks that SWDC is currently not committing to.

Caffell and Mark said mana whenua are expected to be part of the conversations.

SWDC deputy mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter said the council remains open to considering options and wants to see a comprehensive review of the potential risks and benefits involved.

Carterton mayor Ron Mark said CDC is firmly in favour of progressing a region-wide merger process that would include public consultation.

“Carterton believes that the most viable and sustainable future for all Wairarapa councils post ‘affordable water’ and other anticipated reforms is to merge. Initiating a merger proposal will see Wairarapa driving, leading, and directing our future rather than have the decision made on our behalf by central government,” he said.

“Carterton proposes to continue merger discussions with Masterton District Council and mana whenua representatives in partnership with the Local Government Commission.

“We anticipate this will help determine the form and functions any merger entity will need to deliver. Following this, we anticipate going out for public consultation on the proposal or proposals.”

Masterton mayor Gary Caffell said MDC wants to take the opportunity to help shape the region’s future.

“Masterton District Council is keen to continue the conversation over the advantages and disadvantages of merging with the other two Wairarapa councils.

“MDC believes it is important that we do everything we can to control our own destiny as a region rather than be dictated by others who may push for a very different type of reorganisation. If those discussions, which would also involve iwi, lead to a merger proposal of any kind, it would then be the subject of public consultation through the Local Government Commission process,” he said.

South Wairarapa deputy mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter said the first joint-councils working group meeting had one action point, which was to go back to councils to get a position on the proposed “commit to plan to merge”.

“SWDC discussed this matter [informally] and took the position of not committing to plan to merge,” she said.

“There was, however, an openness to continued conversation and investigation of the options available to us. It was agreed we wanted to see a comprehensive review that looked at benefits, risks, alternatives, and the appetite for merger among our community, completed by the working group.

“Both Councillor Bosley and I felt this was in line with the outlined purpose of the working group, which was to review the three themes and six questions developed by the previous working group, complete an intensive review seeking to answer all the questions and present a comprehensive report back to the three councils by year-end.”

Sadler-Futter said SWDC does not want to take a position without that information.

“We feel it is important to understand and ensure the benefits outweigh the negatives for any preferred option,” she said.

“With regard to the next steps, SWDC will watch with interest the progress of our neighbouring councils, and we will also seek to answer our above questions.”

Mark hopes the process will be complete before the next local elections.

“We do not have a planned completion date at this early stage of the conversation but anticipate the work will take some time. Ultimately, we aim to bring these conversations to a decision prior to, or at, the next local body election in October 2025.”

-NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air rather than be dictated by others who may push for a very different type of reorganisation. If those discussions, which would also involve iwi, lead to a merger proposal of any kind, it would then be the subject of public consultation through the Local Government Commission process,” he said.

Sadler-Futter said the first joint-councils working group meeting had one action point, which was to go back to councils to get a position on the proposed “commit to plan to merge”.

“SWDC discussed this matter [informally] and took the position of not committing to plan to merge,” she said.

“There was, however, an openness to continued conversation and investigation of the options available to us. It was agreed we wanted to see a comprehensive review that looked at benefits, risks, alternatives, and the appetite for merger among our community, completed by the working group.

“Both Councillor Bosley and I felt this was in line with the outlined purpose of the working group, which was to review the three themes and six questions developed by the previous working group, complete an intensive review seeking to answer all the questions and present a comprehensive report back to the three councils by year-end.”

Sadler-Futter said SWDC does not want to take a position without that information.

“We feel it is important to understand and ensure the benefits outweigh the negatives for any preferred option,” she said.

“With regard to the next steps, SWDC will watch with interest the progress of our neighbouring councils, and we will also seek to answer our above questions.”

Mark hopes the process will be complete before the next local elections.

“We do not have a planned completion date at this early stage of the conversation but anticipate the work will take some time. Ultimately, we aim to bring these conversations to a decision prior to, or at, the next local body election in October 2025.”

– NZLDR
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

4 COMMENTS

  1. Having 3 district councils is huge expense on rate payers. Wellington regional council is getting bigger and demanding more rate payers money. As long as we are divided we will always have a small voice. There is one member of parliament for wairarapa and there should be one wairarapa council.

  2. My question to the Deputy Mayor and the Council at large is how are you going to gauge the appetite to merge amongst the community? Are you going poll residents? How will you collect the sentiment of the community without pandering to the vocal minority?

  3. The SWDC is not doing well. The council’s main argument for the high rate increase is the small rate payer base. This can only be solved through amalgamation. What have we got to lose through amalgamation? Since we live in a democratic society I think we need a referendum to decide this question. I applaud Carterton for their bravery and willingness for change.

    Either SWD wants true change and progress and fairer rates or we have more of the same old. If we choose the more of the same old then we should cheer and sing the praises of our council when we get our next double digit increase. If its not next year it will be the following.

  4. Council has no mandate for this. We had a vote and amalgamation was rejected.
    Other councils up north and other places have not enjoyed the do called fruits of amalgamation. At this stage we have direct contact with those on charge. Big councils depend on boards etc . For citizens ti be kept in touch, and those at the top just carry on regardless. NO to this. Can still cooperate in certain areas with out any problems.

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