The need for a strong voice for Wellington

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.

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