Facts and figures hard to pin down

By Gary Caffell


What will be the next instalment in the saga of local government reform for Wairarapa?

News the working party group representing the three district councils received upwards of 1000 responses to their call for public feedback on the issue is certainly encouraging, indicating there is growing interest in the debate.

But you have to wonder whether it has opened a can of worms for what occurs further down the track.

Under the Local Government Act 2002, guidelines for any reorganisation application must include information which demonstrates the application has community support in the district of each territorial authority.

The three Wairarapa councils are backing a plan which would see them amalgamate as a unitary authority.

You only need to read the Letters to the Editor in this newspaper to realise not everybody is enamoured with that idea, mostly on the basis of affordability and the perceived risks of severing ties with our capital city.

So what happens if the public feedback responses indicate the opposition to the unitary authority proposal is such that properly fulfilling the "community support" part of the reorganisation application could be questionable, to say the least?

Will the three councils then be prepared to reconsider their unitary authority stand or will they remain steadfast in their thinking it remains the best option for the region, no matter what the detractors might say?

It is possible, of course, the councils still have their biggest card to play.

The commissioning of a report aimed at answering the many queries which have been posed regarding the affordability of a unitary authority could go a long way towards satisfying those who have expressed doubts about the cost factor.

Particularly if the report shows all the talk about hefty rate increases, especially for farmers and business people, bears little resemblance to the truth.

But here too there is the possibility of the facts and figures raising more questions than answers, only adding fuel to the argument a change in stance is required.

* Gary Caffell is a Masterton district councillor.


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