Emotion no place in debate

By Gary Caffell

It has to be the most frequently asked question in the Wairarapa local government reform debate.

How come the status quo seems to be off the table?

The more confusing the battle becomes between those either pushing the amalgamation of the three Wairarapa councils as a unitary authority, or the supporting of the Wellington super city concept, the more people are querying why things can't stay as they are.

Put simply the reason for the status quo being placed on the back burner is that the National Government has basically said some type of reform must take place, not only in Wairarapa but throughout the greater Wellington region.

Those sitting in their air-conditioned offices in the capital city have come to that conclusion because the current format of local government is apparently too unwieldly and costly, and needs revamping as a consequence.

Other parties, notably Labour and the Greens, have a rather different outlook but right now it is National who is in power and that gives them the ability to call the shots.

You have to wonder though how much thought John Key and his cronies put into the huge number of imponderables thrown up by this debate. Did they understand that Wellington is not Auckland, and that what worked for one would not necessarily work for the other?

Wairarapa's case is a perfect example of what happens when drastic change is ordered without those asking for it basically giving set guidelines of how it should occur.

Given an even playing field, the idea of the Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa councils amalgamating and running their own affairs would be hugely appealing.

But when you have outside influences like the cost of operating services previously run by the Greater Wellington Regional Council coming into the equation then the argument suddenly becomes a whole new ball game.

If you believe, like me, that councillors are there to serve the best interests of their ratepayers then surely you agree any "preferred option" must be based on reality rather than emotion.

And if that means giving the status quo serious consideration shouldn't we be prepared to at least go that far even if it means picking a huge fight with those who undeniably hold the whip hand?

Gary Caffell is a Masterton district councillor.


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