East Coast coup: Council 'blindsided'

By Lawrence Gullery


Greater Wellington Regional Council says it's been "blindsided" by a Hawke's Bay plan to take over more than half its territory in a bid to form a new East Coast Regional Council.

Wellington council chairwoman Fran Wilde said she expected to speak with the Hawke's Bay Regional Council today to find out why it wanted to expand its boundary from Wairoa down to Cape Palliser.

"I'm not sure whether it's a plan so much as a sudden decision. We heard about it through the media and so we're disappointed they didn't speak to us first," Ms Wilde said.

"We will be asking to see the research and evidence they've come up with to back this type of proposal and we will also be very happy to share information we have, with them."

Ms Wilde, a former Labour MP, said she was surprised by the Hawke's Bay move to take over what she considered "three-quarters of Wellington region".

"I was blindsided by it actually and it just came out of the blue. We had no idea anyone was thinking about this," Ms Wilde said.

"I am not sure what the objective is, whether they really want that [expansion] or whether they are just trying to make some kind of point. My view is that the southern part of Wairarapa, from Masterton down, is a part of Wellington and has been since the 1850s."

She said amalgamation was a major issue in the capital with proposals to merge its regional, city and district councils on the table.

"This plan by Hawke's Bay will add to the complexity of it all. When you are putting plans like this to the Local Government Commission, it has to be well researched and not just because it looks like a good idea," Ms Wilde said.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said it appeared Hawke's Bay Regional Council was trying to save itself from amalgamation as set out in another plan promoted by lobby group A Better Hawke's Bay.

"To be honest, it looks like the preservation of a regional council structure rather than a new unitary authority or a better model to do things in a more cohesive way in the region.

"This proposal flies in the face of the advice the regional council was given by its own staff, I've seen the reports, which say bigger is not better, and that they didn't want restructuring to jeopardise the [Ruataniwha] dam scheme.

"So this is contrary to what was said about a month ago."

Mr Yule said he believed the public would not support an East Coast Regional Council mainly because of the strain it would put on its assets, spread across a wider region.

"At the moment the asset base of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council comes from the Napier Port and some leasehold land. You go further south into Horizons Regional Council and the assets are minimal.

"So there is a real risk Hawke's Bay assets will get used in other parts of the new region and I don't think that's right."

Hastings District Council is preparing to lodge its own local government reorganisation plan but it will be similar to the one submitted by A Better Hawke's Bay, Mr Yule said.

Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Peter Butler said he had not been able to convince his council to submit a plan supporting the status quo.

"Five out of eight of our councillors said they wanted some kind of amalgamation but I think none of them want what A Better Hawke's Bay is asking for," Mr Butler said.

"There was some debate around whether you could put in a submission to support the status quo and now that I understand that's possible, I'll be doing that myself, but my council will not."

Hawke's Bay Today understands the Wairoa District Council had planned to lodge a submission asking for Hastings and Napier councils to be merged but for Wairoa and CHB, to be left out of the equation.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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