The introduction to the Future for Local Government's interim report tells us that over the next 30 years our country will change a great deal.
We will have a larger, more diverse population. Technology will change the way people live, work, move around, do business, and relate to each other. Climate change will require us to adapt and reshape our economy and our lives. The Treaty of Waitangi partnership will move into a new phase with increasing focus on enduring, mutually beneficial relationships.
I'm not going to discuss the interim report or even proffer a view on what the future might hold.
But I do want to pick up on one statement in the report and ask readers to contemplate what it means for Christchurch and its place as the unofficial capital of the South Island.
That statement is: "One size does not fit all".
The report says any new local authority structures will have to be tailored to meet the needs of diverse communities and circumstances. And I could not agree more.
There are those who happily take to their keyboards to solve our city's problems by proposing an Auckland solution for us. My answer is, what problem do these sideline referees think they are calling time on?
I often think about the political decision that was made to leave Banks Peninsula out of the local government amalgamations in 1989, leaving it until 2006 when there was literally no alternative. The reality is that a small council like Banks Peninsula was never going to be able to afford the massive infrastructure costs required to address the manifold legacy issues that we continue to invest in resolving today.
So I understand the proposition that it is an increased ratepayer base that enables these large-scale investments to occur.
But Christchurch was already an amalgamation of several authorities - something that was designed to give us the economies of scale we would need.
However, it also meant that many services were drawn back to the centre, with fewer resources available in the local service centres closer to where people lived and worked. Is that really what we want to see – a centralised "one size fits all" approach to everything?
It seems to me that one of the real shortcomings of the 1989 local government reforms (and the changes made in 1992 by the incoming Government) was the failure to establish a regional layer of government to deal with the big infrastructure challenges that require integrated planning and delivery, and which each council has a stake in getting right.
Regional councils were consigned to be nothing more than a regional environmental regulator – except of course for public transport, preventing cities like ours from providing for a fully integrated public and active transport system.
Decisions about public and active transport are integral to urban development and land-use planning, so it makes no sense to separate them in this way, other than to pay homage to the competitive market model imposed on systems where it never belonged.
I have continued to advocate for change in my time as mayor, but to no avail. Let us hope the climate challenge forces the powers that be to take another look.
So why do people look to the super city of Auckland and say we want that too?
The National Policy Statement on Urban Development shows what a solution designed for Auckland is forcing our city to allow in our District Plan.
We absolutely need to intensify residential living in our city and suburban centres, but the provisions to allow that were built into our District Plan after the earthquakes.
Now we are forced to take a one-size-fits-all approach across the city no matter how far developments are from centres and public transport options.
The reality is that economy of scale is not the be-all and end-all for local government. It is only when we are talking about major infrastructure that scale really comes into play.
What about all the local issues that make our city a great place to live, work and play?
What about community engagement on local facilities? What about support for neighbourhood activities? What about libraries and parks and community gardens? How do children get safely to and from school? How do we engage the diversity that exists in our communities with a one-size-fits-all approach? How do we address the digital divide so everyone can participate?
What about problems that challenge our town centres and neighbourhoods – homelessness, crime?
They may not all be entirely within our area of responsibility, but we are involved in them all.
There are many reasons why councils need to be closer to our communities, not further apart.