A Lord Mayor for Wellington?

October 31st, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Katie Chapman at Stuff reports:

One Lord Mayor for the region is being heralded as the future of local governance for .

An independent panel headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer today revealed its proposal for how local councils should be structured.

Under the structure there would be:

* A Greater Wellington Council with 10 councillors headed by a Lord Mayor, who would be elected by the public.

* Six local area councils: Wellington, Porirua, Kapiti, Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt and Wairarapa.

* Each council would have a ‘‘mayoral figurehead’’, elected by the council, not the public.

* The current level of 107 elected mayors and councillors would reduce to 79.

* The Greater Wellington Council would be responsible for all finances, including setting a single rate for the region. It would also look after regional matters such as environmental issues and transport planning.

* The local area councils would be responsible for local service delivery, such as rubbish collection and park management, and local engagement and advocacy.

* Local area councils would have budgets negotiated with the Wellington Regional Council and would be responsible for funds allocated to them.

I think Sir Geoffrey’s proposed structure is a great improvement on the status quo.  The name Lord Mayor is silly, but having an elected Mayor for the whole Region would give Wellington a much more effective voice.

Councillors would sit for a four-year term, but would be restricted to a three-term maximum.

I am a huge fan of term limits, and think we should have them for Parliament also. A term limit means politicians focus more on what they can achieve in their limited tenure of service, rather than how to get re-elected for ever.

The proposal is here. However they have not put a suffix on it, so it comes up file type unknown. Open it as a pdf. It’s a weighty 208 pages long and the panel that unanimously recommends the structure is Sir Geoffrey, Sue Driver, Sir Wira Gardiner and Bryan Jackson.

 

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34 Responses to “A Lord Mayor for Wellington?”

  1. David Garrett (7,278 comments) says:

    I have just been listening to Professor Sir Geoffrey (as he once was) on Nat Rad…that man has got to be the most boring pretentious individual this country has ever produced…surely? Any other nominations?

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  2. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    @David Garrett:

    <blockquote:…the most boring pretentious individual this country has ever produced…surely? Any other nominations?

    Anne Hercus?

    Margaret Wilson?

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  3. David Garrett (7,278 comments) says:

    Hell no! Not even close! Anne Hercus was apparently “lots of fun” after dark, and with a couple of wines under her belt… Wilson was possibly the worse Speaker in living memory, but other than that unremarkable…but Sir Geoffrey is in a class of his own…

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  4. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    Not so sure about this “a single rate for the whole region” bizzo –

    I just moved to the South Wairarapa, and I have to say that from my (limited) contact with them the SWDC seems to function excellently as they are, our town is well-kept and in a good state of repair, and the rates here are not excessive – about $2100 for a decent house on a decent section. Our water and sewage systems are totally independent of the Wellington systems.

    I don’t see how we would benefit from being subsumed into some giant bureaucratic Wellington Super City where we would be the smallest, most marginal, lowest priority for everything.

    (Maybe we could share library books with Wgtn City Libraries…? You can see I’m really struggling to find positives here!)

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  5. Peter (1,712 comments) says:

    Kennedy Graeme?

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  6. libertyscott (359 comments) says:

    “An independent panel headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer”. What an oxymoron! A man who has spent his life creating bureaucratic red tape and believing that prosperity and happiness comes from government, not from people living their lives independently. Sue Driver is a labour lacky and Wira Gardiner part of the National Party supported Maori corporatist gravytrain.

    The late Owen McShane once wrote that the ideal size of local authorities was for populations of about between 25 and 100k. Less than that and they couldn’t attract decent management talent, larger and they start looking for new things to do.

    A big new council would end up with more public housing, more subsidised transport, more “business and economic strategies”, more pet projects and more rates.

    It is nonsense about “giving Wellington a more effective voice”. What for? It already supplies the policy staff for the entire government. Why does it need a voice? Councils don’t give individuals voices, except the egos of councillors, who are hardly competent for the power many of them hold.

    Helene Ritchie shouldn’t be in charge of a microwave oven, let alone a city.

    This was a regional council led study giving the result the regional council wants. Far better for the government to ignore it and implement the proposals to constrain the role of local government. The only beneficiaries from a bigger local government are those with ambitions to do more – look at Auckland, nobody can point to a single benefit of that mega-merger, except short term savings from administration (Treasury sadly is too short term focused on spending and lacking a wider understanding of the dynamics of local government through history to notice that big local authorities grow bigger than smaller ones).

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  7. s.russell (1,642 comments) says:

    I am dubious of the value of a Wellington Supercity council. It was needed in Auckland, but the case for one in Wellington is weaker. And I agree with RRM – I cannot see a lot in it for Wairarapa (though I can see a case for a seperate merger of the three Wairarapa councils).

    One of the biggest benefits of a supercity would be simplification – but having a supercouncil and keeping the existing councils as well seems very messy: having your cake and eating it too – a recipe for indigestion and vomit I would have thought.

    And, I am totally opposed to term limits. Sorry DPF, but I think it is grossly undemocratic to steal from voters their right to choose who they want, and arbitrarily dumping any councillor with long experience does little for good governance. If councillors need dumping, voters can do it.

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  8. Lance (2,655 comments) says:

    @David
    But but I saw Sir Geoffrey play a trumpet (or trombone or something) with Paul Holmes in the Beehive once.
    He’s a cool dude man.

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  9. backster (2,172 comments) says:

    Perhaps the region could be designated a Dukedom, and the figurehead could be named the Duke of Wellington. The main worry is that the scheme is the brainchild of Geoffrey Palmer the brains behind such destructive and pedantic complexities as the Resource Management Act, Privacy Act, Civil Rights Act ,Evidence Act, and other bureaucratic messes.(Has he finished finding out who was at fault when the Israelis stopped that Peace Ship yet?” If Auckland can end up with a mess PALMER can end up with a bigger one.
    Reducing the number of Councillors and grossly overpaid Boffins is a good idea, though that should be done without structural change.

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  10. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    David Garrett:

    Anne Hercus was apparently “lots of fun” after dark, and with a couple of wines under her belt…

    I hear the poor wee thing had problems with accommodation on the Chatham Islands many moons ago…. there must have been a botch up with the Hotel or something and apparently she had to sleep on the aircraft… :D

    Lance is right – at least Palmer could play the trumpet. Or was he simply blowing his own horn?

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  11. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    ” I am a huge fan of term limits, and think we should have them for Parliament also.”

    For mayors, prime ministers and in the future possibly presidents, we probably should go down that road also perhaps for list MP’s, but for elected representatives of the ” people ” as opposed to ” party ” not sure it is such a good idea.

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  12. lastmanstanding (1,297 comments) says:

    I agree as regards a limit on terms. Should apply to Parliament and Local Bodies. Also favour this for public listed companies. Either 2x 3year terms or a maximum of 3x 3year terms for all. After 9 years if they have given their all as they should given the enormous sums of money they are paid they should be knackered. Or and more likely given the current lot in the above posts they have sat there and taken the money and done sod all for it so time to move them on.

    I like the French system of local government A mayor for every 300 citizens. That way you get real connection with your elected representative.
    In Auckland trying to get to speak to any of the elected pooh bars is harder than getting an audience with the Queen. They distance themselves from the common muck.

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  13. Lance (2,655 comments) says:

    @Elycee
    My cousin was the Captain of the RNZAF Andover at the centre of the Chatham Islands incident.
    Preble and Hercus were as pissed as newts and Prebs tried to get into the Andover by pulling the emergency release handle on the rear hatch. The latch almost engaged and the bloody thing would have landed on him, some might say this might not have been a bad thing but it would have been a big repair job to return the aircraft to operational status.
    I remember by cousin being really really pissed off these shit heads had nearly damaged his aircraft.

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  14. David Garrett (7,278 comments) says:

    Peter: Kennedy Graham is most definitely a contender! One of those very rare individuals who are very well educated, yet need to constantly prove it by using multi syllable words at every possible opportunity…I once heard him use the word “autochtonous” in the House…to the general bemusement of everyone there, including Mr Speaker, and others with “Dr” before their names…I had heard the word before, back in the mists of time, but hadn’t any real idea what it meant…

    And of course the world of funeral directing was very much the poorer when “Ken” (as he likes to be called by his fellow Luddites) chose academia and later politics instead of assisting the dead on their way…

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  15. CJPhoto (221 comments) says:

    Why did they use the term ‘Lord’ Mayor. That grabbed all the headlines rather than the content of the report. Or was it the only way for the report to get any media coverage.

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  16. david (2,557 comments) says:

    Well the current duly elected mayor doesn’t seem to have any problems with the proposal with the only exception being that the title “lord mayor” is antiquated and possibly sexist. Her in depth analysis of the concepts and principles should make us all sleep soundly knowing that the Capital is in safe hands.

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  17. CJPhoto (221 comments) says:

    Why not have a ‘super Lord Mayor’ to rule the whole country and do away with local councils altogether.

    For short we could call the elected official ‘the Prime Minister’

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  18. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    LMS:

    Also favour this for public listed companies. Either 2x 3year terms or a maximum of 3x 3year terms for all.

    Directors of publicly listed companies are accountable to the shareholders and a majority of shareholders can vote anyone out. But your comment suggests Sir Michael Hill should not be able to serve on his own Board for longer than 9 years??? Nah – that doesn’t make sense.

    Boards of publicly listed companies should be accountable to shareholders with skin in the game. The rest are simply observers.

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  19. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    the danger with single rates is that its not going to be based on the cheapest area is it?

    Porirua has the most expensive rates for value in the region, so i have no doubt that under a single council we would all end up paying the same as them (and then more), and the spending would just ramp up.

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  20. metcalph (1,430 comments) says:

    Why does Palmer think Wellington’s supermayor should be a Lord Mayor when Dorkland’s supermayor isn’t?

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  21. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    The Greater Wellington Council would be responsible for all finances, including setting a single rate for the region.

    So I would get to subsidise the rates of Kapiti Coast and Hutt City residents (both of which are higher than Wellington City) so that someone can have the privilege of calling themselves Lord Mayor.

    Where is the sense in that?

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  22. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    In favour completely. For a relatively small population we have far to many councillors and bureaucrats.
    As for a Lord Mayor how about just a Mayor. The Lord thing is a bit anachronistic.

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  23. lastmanstanding (1,297 comments) says:

    Elaycee Agree there are always exceptions to the rule and yes of course the shareholders will decide but generally when you see a director there after 9 years they are either like Michael Hill the exception or in most cases just time servers voted back every 3 years by the major shareholders and the instos.

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  24. Viking2 (11,471 comments) says:

    DG. Keith Holyoake.

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  25. David Garrett (7,278 comments) says:

    Viking: No. Judged by today’s standards perhaps, but for the time – the 1960’s – Kiwi Keith was a real man of the people! Had his phone number listed in the book. The story goes – apparently true – that some woman once rang him at 10 pm to complain that the Railways had lost her luggage. Holyoake apparently went down to the station then and there to to help her sort it out, while Norma made a batch of scones!

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  26. Reid (16,457 comments) says:

    Yes I’m with a few others above in that I’m not sure there’s a good operational purpose here. This is not a democracy question it’s a question of and only of operational efficiency. Sure the democracy needs to be adjusted as one of the parameters if the answer to the objective question of: will it be more efficient, is yes. But is it?

    Auckland has cities next door to each other. I don’t understand why Wairarapa is in the mix. Where’s the operational efficiency there? Probably some lies in amalgamating the Hutt Valley and Kapiti Coast with Wellington. And the democratic proposal as someone else said is layered lots of committees and councils which is always bollocks. It implies a lot of structure below them. But why is that necessary? The whole region is tiny compared to overseas. We’re the size of a Sydney borough. And how much do they have, in the management/democracy layers? I haven’t read the report, I wonder if Palmer’s done any benchmarking?

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  27. annie (539 comments) says:

    As you say, the name is splendidly silly.

    I note however the usual people who would be in line for the job already appear keen on it…

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  28. hinamanu (2,352 comments) says:

    This is oficialdom getting further from the reach of the public. Political troughers wet dream

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  29. Joseph Carpenter (214 comments) says:

    A proposal so stupid only a total maroon like Geoff Palmer could come up with it (he’s so fucking stupid he probably doesn’t even realise he being used by powers that be behind the scenes that have been pushing for a Wellington local government empire and Welly Watercare for ages. Hmmm, Geoffy being used by others with their own agenda, seems vaguely familiar…).

    If we were actually rational and smart we look at the facts and outcomes of previous local authority amalgamations in NZ and check the benefits/costs. There were only two analyses/examinations ever done of the last round of mergers in the 1989 Local Government Commission (shame on you Ministry of Internal Affairs you grossly incompetent hacks for not checking further). The first (done nationally six years afterwards) examined road maintenance – a core function of local government. It examined on three criteria and the results were:
    1) Cost: cost increased massively post amalgamation (above the PPI for road/civil works pre & post and compared with non-merged authorities), particular for urban authorities.
    2) Quality: quality decreased slightly post amalgamation.
    3) Coverage/extent: coverage decreased slightly post amalgamation for urban and significantly for rural authorities.
    Therefore on all measures road maintenance (a CORE function) got WORSE after amalgamation.

    The second (seven years after) examined the financial performance of the Hutt valley councils post amalgamation (Upper Hutt City + Silverstream/Pinehaven County and Lower Hutt City + Petone/Eatbourne/Wainuiomata Boroughs). Remember the whole point of the amalgamations was to reduce cost, results:
    1) Neo Upper Hutt City – small increase in average rates (much higher in the former county) and borrowing above comparable non-merged authorities and the PPI & CPI benchmarking.
    2) Hutt City – massive increases in rates (+110%) and borrowing (+720%) – thats right borrowing increased eightfold in six years, and no there wasn’t a major one off like a new sewerage plant or dam or anything. Also interestingly staff numbers were 41% higher post amalgamation than the combined total staff of the separate authorities before.
    Again amalgamation absolutely failed on the most important criteria – it was so bad for Hutt City that 23 years later they are still on an austerity path to save themselves. And as for local democracy/satisfaction – well Eastbourne and Wainui have both tried to formally secede from the union and there is still an ongoing shitfight over wards/community boards/community committees and equal representation.

    And now to the last big amalgamation – Auckland megacity – how’s that working out? Ungood? I assume of course the Minister of Local Government has been collecting detailed information on pre- and post- mega Auckland city and will publish the annual outcomes on a range of criteria. I mean surely just on good governance grounds the National Government would review the results of something so major and not just rely on blind faith wouldn’t they? (Though perhaps they know the horrific truth – Aucklandmega total spending is now 8.8% higher and rates income 7.3% higher than the combined total of the pre-merger councils, good job chaps).

    Why the fuck National would even bother with carrying out Labour’s agenda and going directly against their own principles is another good question.

    Bigger is not necessarily better.

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  30. DJP6-25 (1,387 comments) says:

    If it only gets the idea of term limits into the public arena, it will serve some purpose. They should apply to the civil service too.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  31. thedavincimode (6,759 comments) says:

    DG

    that man has got to be the most boring pretentious individual this country has ever produced…surely? Any other nominations?

    Ahem, well actually … there is one person that springs to mind …

    But anyway, I heard that interview too and thought what a thoroughly humourless and tedious individual. The response to her Dog licence comment summed him up in a nutshell. Straight through to the keeper. When he earlier said to her: “You clearly haven’t read the report”, I recalled that he used to have a little guest spot on her show just before mid-day in which he was invited to comment on matters constitutional and promote his law practice into the bargain. It struck me that this somewhat over-bearing and pompous rebuke wasn’t necessary in the circs and in light of their history. The fact that he said that in that context suggests the old timer is somewhat selfish of spirit and happy to take what he can get but without ever feeling the need to reciprocate in some fashion. He would fit in perfectly in today’s Liabwhore party.

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  32. Manolo (13,774 comments) says:

    Whatever the pompous (and ubiquitous) Geoffrey Palmer touches, turns to shit.
    The poor bastard is a blight, a leech, an utter disgrace.

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  33. thedavincimode (6,759 comments) says:

    Manolo

    What about that Lord Mayor gig? Sound like you? :)

    I bet Looney Len will be pissed off – he would no doubt think that it sounds like him.

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  34. Manolo (13,774 comments) says:

    You have to laugh at the nutter’s audacity: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington-central/7890353/Wade-Brown-interested-in-lord-mayor-role

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