A super Council for Wellington?

November 4th, 2011 at 9:19 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A group of regional councillors is promoting the establishment of a super-city, sparking accusations of underhandedness among mayors.

The group says a “super-council” could be up and running in two years and consist of just 11 members.

The plans for a new Wellington council are revealed in a discussion paper being circulated by Greater Wellington regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde and other regional councillors.

So what is proposed:

The regional council, Wellington City Council and seven district and city councils would be abolished and replaced by the super-council and local community councils. Wellington City Council currently has neither the political nor legal mandate to consider regional interests or issues beyond its boundaries, the document says.

There are currently 87 councillors, eight mayors and 13 regional councillors across the region. Under the new proposal, the 11-member council would be made up of a representative each from Wairarapa, Porirua and Kapiti. Hutt Valley would have three and Wellington four, and a leader would be elected separately.

I’m all in favour. We don’t need 100 councillors for our region.

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41 Responses to “A super Council for Wellington?”

  1. slightlyrighty (2,448 comments) says:

    We have all heard the phrase “paralysis by analysis”. Well, with all the councillers, councils, local bodies et al, we have “stagnation by representation”.

    The number sof hoops anyone has to jump through to get things done is staggering. While anyone in this country has a right to express an opinion, I think the way we have gone about making sure everyone is heard is basically getting in our own way.

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  2. Rick Rowling (776 comments) says:

    Three – count-em! – three multisyllabic rhymes in one thread comment (if you inlcude the name)

    Well done that man

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  3. Put it away (2,888 comments) says:

    I don’t really give a shit about supercities vs separate areas, but the idea seems to piss off all the right people so there must be some merit in it. Penny Ironic-Surname will be foaming at the mouth.

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  4. Ender (105 comments) says:

    As long as us in the City area don’t have to pay a share for the shitheads in Porirua who have massive rates already to cover ridiculous spending projects instead of keeping their roads in decent condition.

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  5. jamsteve (10 comments) says:

    From people in Auckland I’ve spoken to about their super-city, they’ve seen absolutely no reduction in rates since amalgamation. Whether we need 100 councilors or not aside, it begs the question, what’s the point of doing this? An ideological adverseness to ‘big government’ and lining up the various council assets for privatization don’t seem like a good reason for spending the hundreds of millions it would cost to create a new body if there’s no net benefit to the people of the area. Hell, it’ll likely be a negative effect as it will surely see a drop in local services and accountability.

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  6. Graeme Edgeler (3,222 comments) says:

    I’m all in favour. We don’t need 100 councillors for our region.

    What makes you think that if we had a super council and community councils that we still wouldn’t have over 100 councillors in the region.

    Also, as jamsteve requests, please point out how this will make Wellington better.

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  7. redeye (626 comments) says:

    When does local government stop being ‘local’?

    If its just about the economies of scale then perhaps we should just amalgamate the entire North and South Islands.

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  8. rouppe (852 comments) says:

    I can see smaller regions getting screwed over Len Brown style.

    It would be easy for the Wellington and Lower Hutt cartel to bull-doze anything they like, and funnel money collected from Porirua, Kapiti, and Wairarapa into their big ideas for rail to the airport, grandious events centres no-one wants.

    From afar, the Auckland super-city looks like a super clusterfuck, with a mentally deranged mayor being downright bizzare.

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  9. infused (616 comments) says:

    Upper Hutt are so god damm useless anyway.

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  10. nasska (9,558 comments) says:

    If the exercise is about saving money then forget it. Councillers whether they number ten or two hundred are a bargain. What costs is the bureaucracy who feed the councils poor information & carry on running things the way they see fit.

    Halve the council’s payroll of permanent employees, cap rate increases to inflation & then we might get value for money.

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  11. Roflcopter (397 comments) says:

    Agree with Rouppe.

    Would be better to have the same number of representative members from each current city as a starting point.

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  12. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    National – taking the Local out of government since 2008.

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  13. Lucia Maria (1,996 comments) says:

    Nooooooo!!!!!!

    Our councillors may be insane, but they’re still our councillors! They at least live here and know the issues, especially in the outlying regions such as Kapiti. This would just reduce local representation, which I understand will happen no matter what the population wants. Because the last referendum showed just what contempt our leaders have for us, except for wanting our votes at election time.

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  14. Put it away (2,888 comments) says:

    MyBrainOnCrack – Labour – talking the Local out of government since 1989

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  15. RRM (8,997 comments) says:

    A good idea.

    It is nonsense to pretend that Wellington, Porirua & the Hutt are separate cities like Wanganui & Palmerston North.

    And I would vote for the Lower Hutt City Council building to become the seat of the Wellington Super Council. I have 3 good reasons:

    (1) It is the most stylish-looking local Govt building in the area by far.
    (2) Hutt City has that whole spacious civic precinct to use for administrative expansion that will inevitably accompany the amalgamation.
    (3) I am sure the WCC building in Civic Square could be opened up for better use than offices for little bureaucrats…

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  16. wreck1080 (3,533 comments) says:

    The whole point is to lower rates.

    Didn’t happen in auckland, why bother?

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  17. aitkenmike (94 comments) says:

    I can understand the amalgamation of Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Councils (especially ‘Hutt City’) as it really is almost one urban zone, but I have my doubts on whether it would be good for Kapiti and Wairarapa.

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  18. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    I actually live in Auckland (my user name is old) and most people I talk to here would not want to go back to the old system. There are teething issues as always – and no doubt there are/will be downsides to the ‘supercity’ – I think part of it is that Brown is weak and informed by young lefties who would rather position their ideologies (and set themselves up as future Labour MPs) instead of setting up the region for the next 100 years. I haven’t heard any friends/family/colleagues suggesting that Auckland should go back to SEVEN councils.

    I’m sure it looks like a cluster-fuck from afar – I think because the lefties made so much noise when they were dragged into the 21st century. And because Brown/Labour insists on this stupid rail loop.

    As Put It Away says – if certain people are squeeling then it sounds like a good idea for Wellington.

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  19. Manolo (12,643 comments) says:

    The fewer bureaucrats the better.

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  20. wikiriwhis business (3,302 comments) says:

    The whole Nth Isld is going to be one council in time at this rate.

    Councils run the public’s lives . Thier mandate is far too powerful.

    I can see sky scraper slums in teh future cause no one will be able to abide legally by council red tape.

    At least Hamilton Council is be put to the sword and being made an example. Could be re-elections in teh new year

    Can’t wait to see fresh candidates as opposed to the usual suspects and troughers.

    Go Tim Wikiriwhi!!

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  21. Fletch (5,727 comments) says:

    I live in the ‘Super City’ and prefer the old. The Super City seems to be to be a way to raise money for pet projects (RWC etc) from a wider area of purses. Too much beaurocracy and not enough local representation. There is a disconnect between what is happening locally and the big-wigs in Auckland. What do they care about local affairs? It was better when each area had it’s own council that understood the needs of it’s locals and knew what was going on.

    As just a small example, my folks wanted to get a newly released book from the local library the other day, and were told it would be months before they could take it out because 300 people were on the waiting list before them. That’s because the library is part of the almighty Super City now.

    Bigger government with more power always leave the people worse off.

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  22. coge (160 comments) says:

    Great. That’ll give the Kapiti Coast lefties something more to complain about.

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  23. Lucia Maria (1,996 comments) says:

    A few years ago, Wellington City Council managed to prevent a mall being built in Johnsonville to protect Wellington’s “Golden Mile”. I shudder to think how a super-council would use it’s powers here.

    And right now in Kapiti there is an almighty fight against water meters, with 6500 signatures gathered to date asking for a referendum. The councillors know that if there were an election today, they’d all be turfed out. With a super-council any local protests of this nature would just be ignored because the ratepayer numbers would be insignificant in relation to the population elsewhere.

    Hmmm, probably why a super-council looks like a good idea in some quarters.

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  24. Lucia Maria (1,996 comments) says:

    As Put It Away says – if certain people are squeeling then it sounds like a good idea for Wellington.

    Keywords here – good for Wellington. Not for smaller places that will be sucked into the umbrella.

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  25. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    Speaking as an Aucklander I like the new supercity.

    It’s not going to change rates for at least a few years and I can’t beleive people thought it would – massive restructure, setting up new systems etc. BNut over the long haul it should deliver a slightly slimmer cost base for the organisation due to some shared council services IT, HR etc.

    The advantage is mostly around connected decision making authority over a meaningful area. The reality is that a lot of Auckland were living in one ‘city’, working in another ‘city’, and regularly using parks, libraries and public facilities in other ‘cities’. Aucklanders have always called themselves Aucklanders not Waitakerans and Manukanians – the independent ‘cities’ only ever existed on paper and in organisational structures not within the culture and lived experience of the people of Auckland.

    I do think that the electoral cycle is ridiculously short. The main responsibilities of local government are around infrastructure – it is impossible to deliver decent infrastructure on those kinds of timescales. Case in point, one of Len Brown’s key election commitments was delivering a central city rail loop. At the end of three years in the best case scenario he will have some detailed planning and costings and will have started provisioning land purchases. What the hell are we supposed to be judging him on at the next election, he’ll still be no more than a third of the way through what he promised.

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  26. Elaycee (4,089 comments) says:

    @rouppe says: “From afar, the Auckland super-city looks like a super clusterfuck, with a mentally deranged mayor being downright bizzare.”

    Spot on. The merging of eight former council systems has prompted Brown to propose an increase in the council budget of 3.6% [that means a decreases in rates for some but rises of up to 15% for others]. No prizes for guessing where the biggest hits are being felt – the more affluent suburbs. Its already being labelled the ‘envy tax’ – with good reason.

    Brown is a total embarrassment. His penchant for a train set in Auckland is well known. His ‘business case’ for such extravagance (funded by the combined efforts of the NZ taxpayers and the Auckland ratepayers) is commercially inept. The consoling factor for Auckland is that Brown will be dumped at the next Mayoral Election. Like Hubbard etc before him, Brown will be a one term pony. But in the meantime, we all have to put up with him and his dopey ideas…. and at a terrible cost.

    The principle of a ‘Super City’ is not a bad one, BUT as we have experienced in Auckland, the block voting by South Auckland voters delivered us Labour’s Len Brown and his elevation to the top job has resulted in a vacuum of common sense ideas and a plethora of policy copied and pasted from Labour’s inner sanctum. Until Brown can be dumped, we will continue to pay the price for the combined effects of block voting from South Auckland and a very poor Mayoral voter turnout – this has delivered the Auckland Super City clusterfuck we have today.

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  27. Elaycee (4,089 comments) says:

    @Lucia Maria says: “there is an almighty fight against water meters”

    What is wrong with water meters?

    It means that a family re-filling their swimming pool every spring will use more water and pay accordingly. It means that a single person in a small apartment, would pay less. What’s wrong with that?

    We’ve had water meters in Auckland for years.

    Basic user pays. What’s the argument in Kapiti all about?

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  28. claire (6 comments) says:

    Ender, not everyone in Porirua is a shithead and any chance you can you clarify the ridiculous spending projects you’re talking about. Rates may be high, but debt per head is low compared to Wellington. I think Porirua would be disadvantaged by having to take on the higher debt levels of Wellington. Wellington City already thinks the region stops at its doorstep, so while amalgamation may be good in the long term, I’d hate to see just one representative for this area. Folks in the Hutt Valley probably think the same. I think there is a large number of people in Wellington who have absolutely no idea what the demographics are of any area north of Ngauranga Gorge.

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  29. backster (2,000 comments) says:

    How many of the eleven seats are designated for maori , or is a separate maori advisory committee to be provided and at what cost.

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  30. Lucia Maria (1,996 comments) says:

    Elaycee,

    I see, using the envy example.

    Under the user pays model, a frugal elderly couple who rely on watering their vege gardens every morning during times of drought and water shortages will have a hefty water bill. Considering we have more old people than anywhere else in the country, many of them are rightly annoyed about this whole idea.

    We also don’t have water storage, all our water comes out of the river. We’ve been promised for years that we would get a dam, but no, that’s too expensive. The councillors just want us to save water instead and their means of doing so is water meters, which basically means no money for water storage. As ratepayers, we would much rather put the money into the storage of water rather than having a means of charging for water usage at this time.

    And I won’t bore you with the quality of the abysmal bore water which a previous council spent heaps of money on either. Suffice to say, kettles don’t survive it.

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  31. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    The rule of thumb is that no local body candidate should have to drive more than half an hour to the council offices.
    Most of our local authorities are far too large.
    Enlarging boundaries has no impact on the causes of most of our problems – the RMA and the Local Govt Act.
    The French have a mayor for every 350 people.
    The average size of the Swiss Commune is 2000 people. The average population of American cities is 9,000.
    Local government should deal with local issues and compete for populations. If you think your council is too green you should not have to move out of the region to avoid them.

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  32. rouppe (852 comments) says:

    Ender, the reason Porirua has high rates is because we have to pay for big-city services with rates from just 48,546 people, as opposed to 179,466 for Wellington City, and without the large business pool since it is largely a residential area.

    What ridiculous spending projects do you mean? As opposed to the Kilbirnie events centre…

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  33. rouppe (852 comments) says:

    The biggest problem I have with water meters is what happened in Auckland. People did save water, so because consumption – and hence revenue – went down, the price of water still went up to maintain the profit.

    Water meters are not about saving water. They are about driving revenue

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  34. freedom101 (439 comments) says:

    Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt both have low debt, low rates increases and very high customer satisfaction ratings. Hutt City rates increases have been at below inflation for each of the last 7 years. What could possibly be the advantage of moving the decision-making to Wellington?

    Bigger is not always better.

    It’s Fran Wilde’s Wellington Regional Council which has proven itself unable to manage its finances. Their rates increases have been well ahead of inflation for a number of years. They tax and spend more and more, and now Fran wants to run the whole region!!

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  35. Elaycee (4,089 comments) says:

    @ Lucia Maria – I’ve just checked what I wrote and there was no mention of any envy in my comment to you about water rates – just a reference to user pays. A person with a pool uses more water and therefore they pay more. No problem. Its no different to a household of 5 compared to a person living alone in an apartment – the household will use more water than the apartment and should pay more. Simple.

    And why shouldn’t anyone who waters their garden pay for the water? Or do you prefer that their water charges are subsidised by others? Who are these ‘others’ and why should they be expected to subsidise someone else’s water charges?

    A water meter means that charges can be levied on a ‘user pays’ basis. It seems fair – for all users. Surely?

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  36. insider (990 comments) says:

    Rather than running expensive amalgamations it would be much more sensible to gradually increase the shared service/contracting model. They are already doing it in some areas . Water distribution is the obvious one being done by the regional council. Waste contracts I believe is done jointly. So we should be increasing common systems and service contracts for libraries, resource consents, dog control, road maintenance, office accounting, payroll, phones etc and build the cost savings there by reducing duplications and getting scale. Councillor costs are small beer in comparison. The biggest cost councillors create is the support for petty fiefdoms and ‘we are different’ mentality.

    @ Owen

    Sorry you are wrong. They shouldn’t drive, they should bus, cycle or train. This is local govt we are talking about. Cars are for mayors only. ;-)

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  37. Paulus (2,299 comments) says:

    I see a danger in reducing the numbers to a small coterie of like minded persons who will weild real power. See Auckland with oberfuhrer Brown.

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  38. RRM (8,997 comments) says:

    Elaycee –

    The principle of a ‘Super City’ is not a bad one, BUT as we have experienced in Auckland, the block voting by South Auckland voters delivered us Labour’s Len Brown

    So, the #1 main thing you don’t like about the supercity is – democracy?

    Don’t like the bros from down in south auckland having a say in how YOUR town operates, eh? EH?

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  39. Michael (880 comments) says:

    Wellington City Council spend like drunken sailors, the latest idea is to levy all regional taxpayers to support council controlled organisations within Wellington City because WCC has decided they provide regional benefits. The fact they all bleed cash hasn’t made WCC think that better financial governance and business practice might help rather than picking the pockets of residents of Cannons Creek and Taita. Fortunately, most Hutt City councillors think it’s a nutty idea so will quickly kill it off when push comes to shove. I hear the Wairarapa councils aren’t interested either, especially Masterton District Council.

    With the mountain of debt that Wellington have (and remember they were debt free when WEL was sold 15 years ago) Hutt and Porirua residents are not going to want to have to pay it back.

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  40. marsman (9 comments) says:

    Being promoted by the Chamber of Commerce i.e some greedy fingers are itching to plunder our resources by way of a Rodney Hide SuperCity Scam.

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  41. sthn.jeff (100 comments) says:

    While I would not like to see a total amalgamation I beleive there is room for some amalgamations, ie Masterton district council, Carterton District Council and South Wairarapa. Lower and Upper Hutt should also be merged and maybe Porirua and Wellington

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