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Mayors at odds over proposed council merger

Carterton Mayor Ron Mark is standing firm on his support for the amalgamation of Wairarapa’s three councils, despite Masterton postponing talks.

Mark said he and fellow Carterton councillors had recently reaffirmed their support for a merger, labelling it “a smart thing to do”.

“There are those of us who see Wairarapa as one … but some people enjoy being mayor and being councillors, and they see things at their level,” Mark said.

“My council sees things at a higher level, rather than their own sphere of importance.”

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell announced yesterday that his council had opted not to allocate any resources at this time towards further exploration of the possibility of merging with Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils.

“While the door remains open to future discussions initiated by the Local Government Commission, we are mindful of not diverting valuable time, energy, and resources away from critical priorities,” Caffell said.

“Our focus is currently on the Long-Term Plan process, ensuring a balanced approach to fostering district growth while maintaining affordability and delivering value to our ratepayers.”

Responding to Mark’s comments, Caffell said it is “absolutely ridiculous to say that our decision has been motivated in any way by the desire for the mayor and councillors to keep their jobs”.

“That has never been part of any discussion our council has had and never would be and is demeaning to a group of men and women who are working bloody hard to do the best by their community,” he said.

“The very last thing they could be accused of is self-interest.

“Our whole motivation behind our current move is to ensure we can put the time and resources into ensuring that we deliver a Long-Term Plan that delivers value for our ratepayers and that we keep progressing initiatives which directly benefit our community.”

Caffell said Masterton District Council [MDC] is actively engaged in developing strategies for sports facilities, parking, spatial planning, and the ongoing refinement of the Wairarapa Combined District Plan – “initiatives that directly benefit our community”.

“While we are open to dialogue with the Local Government Commission, if they choose to broach the subject, disrupting our current operations unnecessarily would undermine the high levels of service we consistently provide to our community.”

In October, Carterton District Council [CDC] approved an unbudgeted expenditure of $50,000 to support the investigation into amalgamation, on the condition that equivalent funding commitments were made by MDC and South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC].

However, in December, MDC decided against funding its portion of a merger investigation.

Therefore, CDC will not be allocating any funding towards the investigation at this stage, a CDC spokesperson said.

Mark said he is proud of his councillors for “knowing our model is not sustainable in the long term” and being open to exploring other options.

“Good leaders do what is best for their community, even if it means sacrificing their own job.”

Mark said CDC will continue looking at “options available”.

Acting SWDC Mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter said her council’s view on amalgamation hasn’t changed.

“We remain open to future conversations at the appropriate time with Masterton and Carterton district councils,” she said.

“However, there isn’t an appetite to commit funds or dedicate resources until we have evidence that supports amalgamation providing better services and value for our communities.”

SWDC will continue to prioritise the best outcomes for South Wairarapa, in particular its immediate water and roading activities, she said.

“I have every confidence that SWDC councillors make decisions and form their positions based on what they believe will provide the best outcomes for the communities they represent.” -NZLDR

LDR is local body
journalism co-funded
by RNZ and NZ On Air.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Two many CEOS AND MANAGERS WHO RUN THERE COUNCILS. We need ONE COUNCIL FOR ALL OF WAIRARAPA. It’s a game between the councils at present and RATE PAYERS ARE PAYING FOR IT. Come on wairarapa how much more evidence do you need?.

  2. I was not aware that Mr Mark and his fellow Carterton Council members held a mandate for amalgamation, but setting that aside for the moment, have they published a SWAT type analysis to inform ratepayers of the benefits and financial advantages of amalgamation?

    The SWDC has already surrendered a measure of autonomy to Wellington Water and to Carterton Council and I am far from convinced that ratepayers have experienced lower costs, improved services, and efficient infrastructure development. In the case of Wellington Water it seems that the SWDC is on the end of a long queue when it comes to service provision and investment in infrastructure – the higher population bases appear to have priority.

    The SWDC road maintenance, associated drainage, and landscape remediation is sub-contracted. I have been a ratepayer long enough to remember the timely responses and efficiency of the Council roadworker team based in Martinborough. Local solutions to local problems has been a recurring theme across rural New Zealand – so what does Mayor Ron Mark and his team have that will demonstrate the benefits of Carterton being a cog in a much bigger wheel?

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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