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There’s plenty to do before a ‘merger’

Talk about the possible merger of three Wairarapa district councils is just that … talk. It might happen, and it might not.

Whatever the end result of the current discussions, I firmly believe it is a conversation worth having.

Yes, we have gone down this track before. So what makes this time different?

Even a cursory glance at the Future for Local Government report brought out by an independent panel in June would suggest that “big brother” is not only going to wave the big stick, but it will take matters into its own hands if it needs to. The report rightly points out that the current local government model is not fit for purpose and clearly indicates that some form of reorganisation is needed.

What shape that reorganisation would take is not exactly spelt out but panel chairman Jim Palmer was quoted as saying that if councils don’t decide what is best for themselves then “decisions would need to be made on their behalf.”

That instantly throws up the concern that Masterton, along with Carterton and South Wairarapa, could be lumped in with those over the hill, which would be pretty much a carbon copy of the Wellington Supercity proposal given the heave-ho a few years ago.

I don’t have any beef with local body officials from Wellington, Hutt City, Porirua or Upper Hutt … they are great people and we get along with each other just fine. But most of them would agree that their strengths and weaknesses are far different from ours and having to find a path which would be tolerated by all would be a nightmare.

This isn’t to say that merging Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa would be easy either.

I would love a dollar for every time I have mentioned the possibility of that happening in chats with my Masterton friends only for them to point out that we are much bigger than our two neighbours and should be able to stand on our two feet. And why would we want to burden ourselves with their problems when we have enough of our own?

It is fair to say that as a council Masterton is functioning well; we have a hard-working and loyal staff and councillors whose whole modus operandi is all about making our district a better place in which to live.

Sure, all sorts of outside influences like inflation, insurance costs and government reforms don’t make life easy from a financial perspective but we continue to keep our head above water, and that’s a big plus these days.

And, what’s more, we have plenty on our plate to keep the minds buzzing like how to solve our water infrastructure problems, build a new town hall and upgrade a library.

All that parochial stuff needs to be placed on the back-burner is because it won’t mean much if the Future For Local Government recommendations are pursued by the next Government … and considering it was a bi-partisan report you’d have to think that will happen no matter which party is pulling the strings.

For us that means thinking regionally, which means working in concert with all or either of Carterton and South Wairarapa to ascertain first that a merger is beneficial to us and, second, that it is doable.

Working through this process should be made easier, of course, by the fact we have been through it before. A lot of the groundwork has already been done, although it has to be acknowledged that circumstances can change quite drastically in local government and making assumptions can quickly lead one into dangerous territory.

Facts rather than assumptions need to be the name of the game. Previous material would still need to be carefully vetted before being given the big tick. And that being the case it is simply too early to talk about definite timeframes for all of this work to be completed to the point where it could look to jump the final hurdle – public consultation.

Getting to that point will be a challenge; let’s focus on that for now.


  1. United we stand divided we fall. How much can be saved being United? And please stop this them and us rubbish we are wairarapa citizens one MP one COUNCIL.

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Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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