Former mayors and councillors say a Wairarapa unitary authority would not be workable and more work is needed to find the right governance structure.

A report released by the Wellington Review Panel last week recommended Wairarapa councils become a 'local area council', which would fall under a Greater Wellington Council and be led by a lord mayor.

The review panel, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Sue Driver, Sir Wira Gardiner and Bryan Jackson, was commissioned by Greater Wellington Regional Council and Porirua City Council earlier this year.

In response, Wairarapa mayors Adrienne Staples, Garry Daniell and Ron Mark said there were only two realistic options for the region - being part of the proposed Wellington structure or becoming a unitary authority.


A unitary authority would encompass the functions of both district and regional council.

Former Masterton mayor Bob Francis said there was "considerable merit" in the panel report but he was concerned the nine councils were not working together to find a solution. He supported an amalgamation of the three Wairarapa district councils but not a break-away into a unitary authority, as this would clearly bring a "greater rates burden".

Mr Francis said there needed to be more research into the responsibilities of each council under the proposed structure.

"There needs to be some debate around that." Former long-term Masterton county and later Masterton district councillor Roddy McKenzie said future governance of the region was an important subject.

He said Wairarapa would struggle to maintain the standard of services provided by the regional council if the three councils became a unitary authority.

Mr McKenzie said more information and discussion was needed before the community could make up its mind - not the mayors.

"The biggest thing so far, I say, is a lot of people are uninformed," he said.

Former Masterton mayor Frank Cody supported the idea of a single district for Wairarapa. He said the councils should not go as far as a unitary authority as the district needed the support of the region.

Mr Cody said the report was a good basis for a solution but more work needed to be done.

Last week Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett said an informal discussion between his council and Greater Wellington Regional Council supported a suggested to the Local Government Commission that the title of lord mayor be dropped.

He said the title had dominated the debate far too much.