Leaders question unitary plan

By amie.hickland@age.co.nz, Amie Hickland

Business, farming and iwi leaders have raised concerns about a proposal for a Wairarapa unitary authority.

The group of concerned leaders met with the Wairarapa Governance Review Working Party on Thursday to discuss their concerns following the release of the working party's report on local governance.

The working party had agreed on a preferred option for Wairarapa - a unitary authority which would take on regional and district council functions.

The group said there was a lack of information in the report, although they applauded what work had been undertaken.

Wairarapa Federated Farmers provincial president Jamie Falloon said there needed to be more information around the proposal, especially the financial implications.

"The report is currently lacking the detail of what the costs and service levels will be to ratepayers," he said.

"This is not about the funding policy from the past, it is about the cost to ratepayers in the future if we adopt a unitary authority versus any other model being proposed.

"There is not enough time for people to consider the effects of this proposal, it appears to be somewhat rushed for such an important decision for the Wairarapa."

Wairarapa Development Group board member and former Masterton mayor Bob Francis said there were significant issues with the proposed unitary authority around size, scale and affordability.

Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce board member Hamish Edward said there needed to be more analysis around the preferred option as well as an alternative option to consider.

Working party chairwoman Lyn Patterson said any concerns raised with the party were valid.

"I thought it was a good and informative meeting," she said. "From the working party point of view, this is what the consultation process is about."

She said this was the biggest change in local governance in the region in more than 20 years, so it was important get as much input as possible. "We are still really keen to sit around the table with anybody who wants to talk to us."

Public meetings about the issue are to be held next week, with the first at Carterton Events Centre at 7.30pm, Monday night.


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