The need for a strong voice for Wellington

April 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

The Government might be able to help it out of the economic doldrums, but its main focus was on Auckland and Christchurch, while was perceived in the Beehive as “difficult to deal with”, staff told councillors at a committee meeting last week.

Auckland Council was “tight” with the Government, and the chief executives of government departments, because it had one mayor who spoke for a council with a united vision, strategy and community engagement group general manager Jane Davis said.

“We just don’t have those relationships here in Wellington,” she said. “The Government understands Auckland. It doesn’t understand Wellington.”

Some councillors bristled, believing Ms Davis and her colleagues meant an Auckland-style super-city was the only way forward for Wellington.

When councillor Daran Ponter asked Ms Davis if that was the case, she said it was not.

“No, there are other ways. But we’re failing to nominate a [regional] leader. We’re not pushing any political barrows here. This report is based on evidence.”

She pointed to discussions between Wellington’s nine city and district councils over who would represent the region in talks with the Government over Callaghan Innovation, the recently formed Crown entity for science, innovation and technology.

The councils could not decide who would lobby to have it based in Wellington and, in the end, leaders from all nine took part in the talks. “They said nine voices are stronger than one . . . well, that doesn’t work,” Ms Davis said.

Callaghan Innovation ended up with offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, though it is based mainly in Auckland.

Councillor Peter Glensor agreed the Callaghan discussions were “deeply embarrassing” for Wellington.

I think that is a very good example of the weaknesses of the current structure.

The way I see amalgamation is that you actually retain pretty much the same Councils, but they are all part of the entity. The regional council has undisputed authority to talk on behalf of the region, and the local councils or boards deal with all issues in their areas except regional issues.

7 Responses to “The need for a strong voice for Wellington”

  1. anonymouse (895 comments) says:

    in the end, leaders from all nine took part in the talks

    So The Mayors of Carterton and Masterton were part of the discussions about the expansion and location of IRL (now Callaghan) in Lower Hutt, because they could not appoint a single representative,

    I am simply lost for words ……..

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  2. gazzmaniac (2,845 comments) says:

    Since the government doesn’t understand Wellington, let me help out.
    It’s a region with several local councils, some of whom have balanced their books by prudent management and some who have not, including the big one that is dominated by people who couldn’t manage a pissup in a brewery. The broke councils with big debts have their greedy eyes on the debt free Hutt Valley to pay for their wet dreams. And apart from Kapiti which is run by loops, the debt free councils are the smaller ones which operate on common sense not party politics.

    On top of that there are small towns like Otaki who got their shit together and sorted out their water supply as a borough in the early 1980s but were lumped with Waikanae and Paraparaumu in the late 1980s and are expected to contribute to their water issues even though they thought they had it sorted.
    It will only get worse with a super council, not better.

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  3. redeye (734 comments) says:

    If central government has trouble dealing with a number of mayors then the solution is get public servants that can.

    I live in the South Island. We don’t have just the one regional leader. How are they going to deal with that?

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  4. Mobile Michael (1,011 comments) says:

    IRL were based in Lower Hutt. Hutt City has a technology development strategy. Grow Wellington is supposed to be the local government agency tasked with economic growth in the Wellington Region. Surely Hutt City Mayor Ray Wallace, supported by Grow Wellington would be the obvious choice?

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  5. Mark (1,614 comments) says:

    Strikes me Jane Davis is being a little self serving here in terms of the regional council push to be the unitary rating authority for Wellington. (A concept which I support by the way)

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  6. Yogibear (442 comments) says:

    Gazzamaniac – You get no argument from me on the bad councils in Wellington, but my, what a rose-tinted view you have of the “good” councils in Wellington.

    What I see is a Lower Hutt City with a completly disfunctional CBD, served by a transport network designed to support half the vehicles that need to use it (Petone esplanade anybody) – with no appetite to invest in the major capital works needed – but hey, their debt levels are great!!!

    Ask the good people of Eastbourne who they want to be part of – its not Lower Hutt.

    I see an Upper Hutt City that is good for water storage, an army base, locking up crims, a few race meetings a year and Lord of the Rings tours.

    Yet the Council seemingly has an economic development strategy focussed on getting people to turn off SH2 and shop at Upper Hutt’s Farmers and Warehouse, and is on the verge of spending $50m of rate payers $ (therby plunging this “good” Council into huge debt) on an ill-concieved semi-rural intensification, the sole justification of which is seeking new ratepayers who might go elsewhere in the region!

    As for Porirua…….if Wellington is so bad, how come the Tawa ratepayers voted to get out first chance they got? Plus, its easy to run a council where well over 50% of the costs of your commuter network is paid for by central government and most of your suburban infrastructure isn’t old enough to cover those pesky renewal costs.

    My point is Wellington is an interconnected and interdependent region; be it for work, transport or recreation. The performace of each council is not just a function of those that run it, but also the age of its assets (Wellington=old, Porirua=new), but also what other parts of the region contribute to each city.

    The region is over-governed, incoherent in its strategy (look at the kinds of projects Grow Wellington fund in comparison to ATEED in Auckland) and over-supplied in terms of facilities. As a lifelong Wellingtonian (who has lived in 3 of our cities) I firmly believe the good pragmatic responses we see to some issues (e.g. shared services) are now being outweighed by inertia and just too many fingers in pies.

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  7. wiseowl (2,357 comments) says:

    “the Regional Council has undisputed authority to speak on behalf of the Region”

    Absolute crap!

    There is a total and complete misunderstanding of Regional Councils and their functions in New Zealand.

    Some elected Regional Councillors and MP’s have a misguided and extremely poor understanding of what Regional Councils are there for and the extreme importance of having them fulfil the functions they are supposed to fulfil.
    They have been hijacked by a host of celebrities, greenies, wannabes and dickheads.

    Regional Councils were formed because of and around CATCHMENTS, say again CATCHMENTS, say again CATCHMENTS.
    There was a legitimate reason for this and it also explains why there are the number of Regional bodies in NZ.

    The catchments in each region all flow into the sea in the region.
    They were also given the responsibility of environment as this also revolves around catchments and the likes of possums are easily controlled on a regional basis and NOT on a city by city basis.

    People like Wilde and Laidlaw in Wellington don’t understand this and it is reflected in other regional councils with the wrong people filling the seats.

    It is imperative that catchment and environmental issues are dealt with by RC’s and City Councils deal with what is broadly called ‘the built ‘ environment.

    Any amalgamation in any part of NZ should NOT form a unitary authority.They do not work and catchment functions and environmental issues succumb to the wants and needs of the masses.

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