Aucklanders: “Don’t do it Wellington!”

Why is it that some unelected juggernaut pencil pushers can foist something on us that the majority of us don’t want?   Worse, we’ve seen how to stuff it up well and proper in Auckland, but that isn’t stopping the idiots around the capital

Wellington  is heading for an Auckland-style super-city, unless voters say otherwise.

The Local Government Commission published its draft recommendation yesterday, calling for the region’s nine councils to unite into a single body, to be called the Greater Wellington Council.

The merger could happen at the 2016 local body election and is expected to cost about $30 million.

But most of the region’s mayors oppose the plan, and the decision on whether it goes ahead is likely to be made in a referendum, which could be held as early as the middle of next year.

Critics say the plan is too similar to the Auckland super-city model. That has been credited with making $180m in savings since 2010, but has also led to about 1200 job losses, and rates rises as high as 10 per cent.

It is unknown how many jobs in Wellington would be lost and commission chairman Basil Morrison said there would be “winners and losers” in terms of rates bills.

The local boards proposed for Wellington would have more power than those in Auckland, where many functions were given to council-controlled organisations instead, he said. “It’s vastly different.”

But Lower Hutt Mayor and amalgamation opponent Ray Wallace said it was the Auckland super-city in all but name. “If it walks like a duck and waddles like a duck, it’s a duck. And that is the Auckland model, dressed up with slightly new window dressing.”

Councils were already working well together, so arguments that amalgamation was necessary to drive the region forward did not hold water, he said. Amalgamations always led to blown budgets and “every saving was outweighed by new costs”.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the “uber council” was “overkill”, and would fail to give people the representation they wanted.

But Greater Wellington Regional Council chairwoman Fran Wilde, one of the biggest advocates of the model adopted by the commission, said it give people greater democracy. “We have too much fragmentation now, and this will get rid of it.”

The proposal is for a single regional mayor elected at the head of a 21-member council, with members elected from eight wards. Each ward would also have a local board of between six and 10 elected members, which will decide local matters.

Turns out that the “duplication” between councils, and “efficiencies” that can be gained by working as a single regulatory body are only logical on paper.  In the real world, Auckland rate payers have suffered a reduction in services while they must pay a rapidly increasing rates bill.

Since amalgamation, they are paying more for getting less.   And it’s spiraling out of control.

The argument put forward that it was hard to deal “with Auckland” before amalgamation due to the requirement to consult with all the local councils also made perfect sense.  You really can’t make a rail corridor if you need to get 8 councils on board.  It will never happen.

Instead, Auckland still doesn’t want a rail loop, but now the amalgamated council is like a runaway train (sorry) starting off with $2.4B for the most pathetically small section of rail that will benefit few in the city.   The true cost?   It won’t be $2.4B – we all know that.  The actual day to day cost is already showing with a mean, penny pinching council trying to find money anywhere it can.

At an absolute minimum, if this Wellington amalgamation juggernaut can’t be stopped, let’s use it as a Trojan horse to introduce recall legislation.  If Auckland has achieved one thing, it is that it had demonstrated what can happen when a totally unsuitable, deeply unpopular and legacy building mayor is allowed to continue in spite of a total change of mood since the time s/he was elected.

Wellington – don’t do an Auckland.


– The Dominion Post


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  • Excitedly awaiting Whodunnit

    Whats scary for us cantabs is the numpties are targeting us next. The broke chch council likes the idea of amalgamating the selwyn and waimak revenue streams… ah i mean councils with their empty bank accounts…

    No thanks.

    • Aucky

      And then Hawkes Bay.

      • Alright

        Aucky, see above re Hawkes Bay.

        In Napier a professional independent earlier this year found 68 percent of Napier residence didn’t want a bar of it. Why? They can see clearly that it is simply a takeover of Hawkes Bay by Hastings.

        Who, in their right mind, would want to be taken over by Hastings?

        Certainly not Central Hawkes Bay, Wairoa or Napier City (which is in great financial shape – unlike Hastings).

  • MAWG

    I don’t think the supercity concept is bad for Auckland. The problem is that too many people couldn’t be bothered with the ramifications, and this resulted in Len Brown absolutely stuffing it up.

    • That’s the one.

    • Aucky

      Not just Brown. There’s fifteen sycophantic troughing councillors in the equation as well.

  • xennex

    What is the logic behind Auckland Super City saving $180M yet leading to large rate increases? There’s two side to the equation.
    It seems like a better way of putting it would be $180M was saved in some areas but was out-balanced by spending on others.

    • OneTrack

      Where is the $180 million that was “saved”?

  • cows4me

    A referendum you say, is this a binding one or one of your run of the mill referendums to placate the peasants? So how many will have to vote no to make it not so, 75%, 85% or 95%.

    • dgrogan

      I’d say 51% of 30% of eligible voters would probably swing it, no?

  • Ross

    I have no problems with this, and with some irony, the most vehement opponents are the people whose jobs are on the line.

    We have 9 councils for a region much smaller than Auckland. I don’t think too many parallels can be drawn between Auckland and Wellington as a vast amount of the council spending in Auckland has been for projects which were well overdue. E.G. Wellington doesn’t need to go and spend x billion on rolling out train infrastructure. For those in the Wairarapa, I’d suggest that being part of the new mix would be a big benefit. ATM, councils are trying to compete with each other as well as offer the same range of services, what’s wrong with targeting some areas for different developments? Having a regional council that is distinct from our city councils hasn’t actually done anything progressive for the region, but it makes accounting easier. I know people hate change, but personally I think this is a step in the right direction.

  • George

    “Wellington is heading for an Auckland style super city unless the voters say otherwise”. So says Roger Kitchin in Stuff this morning.
    In essence, he is correct, however there is one glaring chararistic in favour of Wellington, their super Mayor won’t be Len Brown!
    I have no experience in local politics, however I believe it is a reasonable to assume that the same principles apply to running a council, as they do for any other enterprise regardless of its size.
    The primary requirement is competent personnel. Sadly, there is no employment interview, no job relevant experienced required, and the selection panel (the public) are as ignorant as the applicants. (Could you imagine having to staff your company within this criteria?) yet, this is the only option available to us. This is why we have as Auckland’s CEO, Len Brown.
    Should Wellington become a super city, don’t be apathetic. Don’t let clowns vote in clowns. We were apathetic in Auckland and now our beautiful city has become a debt ridden circus where loony lusty Len of the left is rapidly destroying our very existence. His dirty hands are in every pocket looking for every last cent to pay for his fantasies. Don’t make the same mistake.

  • NeverMindTheBoll

    “…commission chairman Basil Morrison said there would be “winners and losers” in terms of rates bills.” Please explain.

    • david

      Simple. If you live in an area that has a responsible council that keeps rates down you will be worse off. If you have a profligate council you may be better off, but more likely everyone else will be brought to the norm set by your council.

      • ex-JAFA

        The highest level of revenue will be implemented across the board, as will the lowest level of service.

  • david

    Wellington already has a Greater Wellington Regional Council that handles regional planning, public transport, water, etc and 8 (?) local councils that handle local issues. Instead of creating a new region-wide ‘council’ and 8 local boards, all that actually needs to be done is to transfer some powers from the current local authorities to the current regional council – roads being the biggest item – and you would achieve the same end. (You could argue whether all roads should be transferred but that’s a different issue). But that wouldn’t create a whole lot of new more important and higher paid jobs for the bureaucrats would it?

  • BG

    What has always flomaxxed me is that the Super City idea “in theory” must be a better than several small wards, with several little mayors and several layers of bureaucracy.

    Is it just because Auckland chose an incompetent mayor that things have gone so wrong up there? I guess what I’m getting at – is it the system or the personal?

    • Rod

      Both. Fatal flaws in both the system and the character of the mayor and his team of syncophants. If you are going to try it Wellington, insist on recall provisions in the legislation. But if you want a mayor who already has experience in this field, we can sell you one cheap….we may even pay you to take him.

  • Alright

    In Hawkes Bay, Napier mayor Bill Dalton talks rationally about local govt efficiencies being available without amalgamation and the destruction of local communities of interest build up over generations.

    This whole amalgamation gig is simply empire building in drag.


      I just wonder why HB is one of the least successful regions of NZ, so somehow the present structure isn’t working….I am still waiting for a realistic, constructive action plan of any of the 5! councils to lift the region out of the dolldrums. I personally think, ‘they’ had more than enough opportunity to act (sick of all the talk), so now its time for a new approach….bring on the amalgamation vote.

      • Alright

        IKIDUNOT: History demonstrates that governments (including local ones) destroy more wealth than they create.

        Thinking local government amalgamation is a panacea that will lift gdp in HB, or anywhere else, is seriously misplaced.

        The idea that most local or city councillors have the business acumen to turn every dollar they get in rates into $1.10 doesn’t happen. Anywhere.


    “Why is it that some unelected juggernaut pencil pushers can foist something on us that the majority of us don’t want?”

    Well that should be simple then….the planned referendum vote should kill the whole idea….

  • Where do they get $180m in savings from? I’ve seen services drop, rates go up, other charges go up, but I haven’t seen any savings. How do they get away with publishing such drivel?

    • Excitedly awaiting Whodunnit

      With all the proposed savings in Auckland and the cutting of jobs/duplication what actually happened? It didnt seem like anything got smaller. if anything it got bigger.

  • Wallace Westland

    “Critics say the plan is too similar to the Auckland super-city model.
    That has been credited with making $180m in savings since 2010, but has
    also led to about 1200 job losses, and rates rises as high as 10 per
    I work everyday having to deal with Council and some of it’s CCO’s Auckland Transport in particular.
    While there may have been 1200 job cuts across the councils originally (my partner at the time included) I would put money on this:
    If we added all the employee numbers of the original councils when they amalgamated and took the current number of employees in the super city the super city would be higher. Then add to that the over paid bureaucrats and consultants and I’d say we (Auckland’s ratepayers) are on the short end of the stick.

  • friardo

    Why the hell do we need a local government commission to come wading into various places (Wellington, Hawkes Bay etc) telling us how we must live. Who are these people and why do they care if we are “efficient” or not. (their definition of efficiency seems to make life more expensive, how is that?) Really, dis-establish yourself and F.O.

  • Tamaki

    Auckland’s amalgamation was a good strategy,, just poorly executed. It’s important to get the people right; a major with a wandering brain and a failed ex CEO was never going to make it happen. a fish rots from its head.

    Wellington needs to do pool it’s resources and do a hell of a lot better or the place is dog tucker. This should be possible as they are starting from a very very low point with wade brown and the little plump Lower Hutt tycoon.

  • armotur

    The aspiring super Queen of Super Wellington, France Wilde, is spinning this stupid idea to all that will listen. But listen to her words, there is nothing there that she claims will be the benefits of a super city that really cannot be achieved by the existing councils working together with the regional council.

    Even more the current arrangement gives democratic voice to all local councils in a way that will be lost when power is given to the super Queen. We have seen that happen in Auckland.

    Just go away Fran and take your potty mouth and all your minions with you. Leave us alone!