Mayors - Process can't be paused

By Amie Hickland

Wairarapa councils have rejected a call to slow down as they work toward governance reform, as other regions are ready to submit their proposals to the Local Government Commission in the next few months.

In a joint statement, mayors Adrienne Staples, Ron Mark and Garry Daniell said the wording of the Local Government Act gives them virtually no control over the timing of the process.

Local Government Reform Working Party chairman Ken Douglas has advised their application for a region-wide super city will be ready to submit to the commission in April this year, the mayors said.

Under the act, the Wairarapa governance review working party would only have 20 days to submit an alternative application.

The commission has to look at all the possible reorganisation options before determining which proposal will best promote good local government.

The mayors said the February 4 deadline for feedback from the public is only the first stage of consultation. "There's a long way to go yet. As while there is pressure on the Wairarapa councils to meet any deadlines imposed by an expected application for a super-city, there will still be further consultation with the public."

The mayors said there needed to be a completely new structure in place because the continued existence of Greater Wellington Regional Council has been rejected by the council itself.

Masterton's only rural district councillor Graham McClymont said he supported the work the party was undertaking, as they were only asking for feedback at this stage.

Once a decision has been made, there will be more public consultation.

He personally supported the option for a Wairarapa unitary authority, and said accountants Martin Jenkins were working on the facts and figures which would reveal if it was a viable option.

Mr McClymont said it was a shame the region was dividing into "two camps" - one for a super-city and the other for a unitary authority.

Councillor Gary Caffell said he understood the working party's requirements, but the deadline could still be extended to the end of this month, he said.

"That would still give them plenty of time to alter their thinking should the submissions clearly indicate another preference from the people who matter most, the ratepayers," he said in an email to fellow councillors.

"And it would also help stop all the talk about the working party group being on a crusade rather than listening to the people they represent."


The facts

The possible changes to the region's local governance structure will have no effect on the timing of this year's local body elections.

It will be "business as usual", according to South Wairarapa mayor Adrienne Staples.

She said there was no possibility a new structure would be in place in time for the election.

"The local elections will go ahead as planned," she said.

The Local Government Commission is also required by law to consult with the public after proposals are submitted to the Commission and before any final reorganisation scheme is determined. There is also the opportunity for a poll on the Local Government Commission's preferred proposal if sufficient people petition for one.


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