Wellington local government

The Nelson Mail reports:

    The Local Government Commission has approved the draft reorganisation scheme for Nelson and Tasman, paving the way for the two local authorities to merge by the end of the year.

    The new council, to be called Nelson Tasman District Council, would have a mayor and 16 members. All staff of both councils, apart from the chief executives, would transfer to the new council, to be headquartered in Richmond.

It’s good to see local authorities in Nelson and Tasman being pro-active about how to improve local government in their area. I wish our politicians in would do the same.

The Dom Post reports from earlier this week:

    Wellington’s smaller cities could “wither away and die” if councils in the region are not restructured.

    The warning comes from a group who have launched a website encouraging debate on local government amalgamation in the Wellington region.

    The Shape the Future website was launched in response to a lack of action by politicians.

    The aim of the campaign was to encourage ratepayers to voice their views on the future of local government in the region.

    The website’s founding sponsors are Bob Francis, the former mayor of Masterton and current chairman of the Wairarapa District Health Board, Porirua city councillor Ken Douglas, Wellington accountant John Shewan, community sector representative and Owhiro Bay resident Vivien Maidaborn and Paraparaumu company director Norrey Simmons.

    Mr Douglas, who has been a councillor in Porirua since 1998, said the current debate on whether councils in the region should be consumed by a super-city had missed the point.

    Instead, discussion should be about purpose not structure.

    “I’m supporting this approach about the need for rationalisation because if we don’t then places like Porirua will essentially just wither away and die.”

I’m with Ken Douglas on this issue. In fact I’ve gone to the Shape The Future website and signed up as a supporter. I note other supporters include the Mayor of Porirua Nick Leggett, former Labour Minister Steve Maharey, NZer of the Year Sir Paul Callaghan so it is a diverse group of supporters politically. I encourage readers who support change, signing up as supporters and engaging on what that change should be.

Ken Douglas is right to say we should focus on purpose or functions, not structure. The structure should follow.

My thinking is:

  • We should define what functions are best provided regionally – water, tourism, transport etc are obvious inclusions but there are more. Let’s debate them.
  • Then we should state that all other functions should be decided or provided at a local level (not necessairly the same boundaries as current) – community facilities
  • After we have worked out functions, then you look at structure issues such as whether the regional body and the local bodies should be seperate entities as at present, or part of one overall Council (as in Auckland). I think people would be keen to get details about how much money is spent on our nine current Councils communicating and liasing with each other, plus enforcing rules and even prosecuting each other.
  • Then we would also look at where boundaries should be at the local level. If for example we decided that we should have one entity with a regional council and several community councils, then you might have three community councils covering the area of the current Wellington City. One for the CBD and neighbouring suburbs. One for the South-Eastern suburbs and one for the North-Western suburbs.

Many of the Mayors and current Councillors (not all) see any change as a threat to their tenure. That is why we should not leave the debate to them. That’s why I’m supporting the debate.

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