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LGC proposal: “It’s in your hands”

By Gerald Ford

The Local Government Commission has released its final proposal for a Wairarapa District Council – and it is largely unchanged from the draft released in March.

LGC chair Sir Wira Gardiner said the proposal has “strong support across Wairarapa” and the commission is confident it will help the region “in capturing opportunities now and meeting the challenges of the future”.

As in the draft proposal, Wairarapa would have a mayor elected by the whole region and 12 councillors elected by ward.

Councillor representation is divided into Masterton 5, Carterton 2, Greytown 1, Featherston 1 and one each three rural wards – Te Kauru to the north, Maungaraki to the east and Martinborough to the south.

Each of the five towns would also have a community board.

The Wairarapa District Council would have a rural standing committee and a Maori Standing Committee at least until the 2022 election, and the Wellington Regional Council would have a new Wairarapa committee.

Membership would comprise the mayor, councillors from the Te Kauru, Maungaraki, and Martinborough wards, and representatives of rural/land based industries and rural communities.

Sir Wira also penned a response to a comment “we encountered occasionally during the submissions period: ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.”

“We agree local government in the Wairarapa “ain’t broke” – your councils work hard to patch over any cracks,” Sir Wira said.

“But it is vulnerable and, in the Commission’s view, is not at present the optimal structure for good local government in the district.”

Sir Wira listed combined council’s efficiency and economies of scale along with “capacity, resilience, expertise and a coherent economic strategy”.

The new council, Sir Wira said, would be better placed to “maintain essential services” to “replace ageing infrastructure”, to keep up with technological and climate change, and to establish competitive advantage in tourism, and business, including wine and agriculture.

The single council, would have “less red tape, simplified planning and decision-making, better customer service, a unified Wairarapa voice…”.

It would also combine local representation “with a mandate to work in the best interests of the Wairarapa as a whole”.

Sir Wira said the proposal is submitted in good faith, “after careful consideration of all the evidence” and after hearing the views of all sectors of the community.

“We now hand it over to the community which must, rightly, decide its fate. The future of the Wairarapa is in your hands.”

SUBMISSIONS AND SURVEYS

Feedback on the Local Government Commission’s proposal was decidedly mixed, with written submissions in opposition outnumbering those in support by more than 2 to 1 while a telephone survey found 60 percent in support.

The draft proposal was notified on March 15 and submissions were called for by May 3.

In total 1191 submissions were received and of these 824 submissions opposed the draft proposal, 356 supported it or supported it with some amendments, and 11 neither supported nor opposed it.

This equates to 69 per cent of submissions in opposition and 30 per cent support or qualified support.

Carterton opponents were particularly concerned that it would be worse for their district, while South Wairarapa respondents were more concerned about worse representation for smaller towns.

The Local Government Commission identified 36 submissions as being from organisations, including affected councils and iwi.

These group submissions were 17 (47 per cent) in support, 11 (31 per cent) opposed, and eight (22 per cent) neither supporting nor opposing.

Several of these organisations represent large numbers of people: for example, the Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce has a membership of around 200; Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa represents up to 7000 people and Rangitane about 3000.

As part of their research, the Local Government Commission also organized a telephone survey into resident attitudes to a single Wairarapa council.

When asked specifically about the draft proposal, 60 per cent said they supported it, 13 per cent were unsure and 27 per cent opposed.

In Masterton the figures were 67 per cent in support, 20 per cent opposed and 13 per cent unsure.

In South Wairarapa it was 55 per cent in support, 30 per cent opposed and 15 per cent unsure.

Carterton was more evenly split with 46 per cent in support, 43 per cent opposed and 11 per cent unsure.

NEXT STEPS

Electors of the affected districts are now able to call for a poll on the Wairarapa District Council proposal.

This is done by presenting the Commission with a valid petition signed by 10 per cent or more of the electors from one of the three disctricts of Masterton, Carterton or South Wairarapa, by October 11.

The cost of the poll would be $100,000 to be shared between the three district councils on a population basis.

It would be held between November 2017 and February 2018.

If the poll says no, no further action will take place.

If there is no poll or if the poll says yes, then a Transition Body will be set up, by early 2018 at the earliest.

The Transition Body, which was a source of some controversy during submissions, will be comprised of:

An independent chair appointed by the Local Government Commission, two members each from Masterton District Council, Carterton District Council and South Wairarapa District Council, a member nominated by Rangitane o Wairarapa and a member nominated by Kahungunu ki Wairarapa.

The transition board’s role will be:

To provide advice and policy recommendations to the Local Government Commission, to carry out any duties delegated by the Local Government Commission, and to appoint an interim chief executive. 

The interim chief executive would call the first meeting of the Wairarapa District Council.

1 COMMENT

  1. I strongly oppose a single Wairarapa council as the towns will lose there identities and be landed with mastertons large debt and aging infrastructure

Comments are closed.

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