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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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.