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May 16, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Kate Follows Celia – Another SUPER City?

The proposal of amalgamating the Wellington region’s councils has been floating around for a few years now.

In 2009, a study was conducted to look into the possibilities of council restructuring. While it considered many options, from keeping with the status quo to total amalgamation, it made no recommendation as to what option we should take. Instead, we were given the vague “carrying on as we are is not sustainable in the long run”, which makes me wonder why we spend $150,000 on things like this. The potential amalgamation of our region’s city and even district councils is still being discussed today, because the central government wants an answer, and I think it’s something that we should be aware of. (Apathy kills.)

The most commonly cited reason for amalga-mation is that it would save bureaucracy costs, but I don’t think this would actually work out nearly as well as it is touted. Sure, it would bring in economies of scale and avoid doubling up of some costs, but I’m cynical that this money saved would be returned directly to the ratepayers through lower rates, or even spent constructively. Instead, it would only be spent by the council in other nonsensical ways that people such as I would continue to complain about. Moreover, the start-up costs of a new super council would be unavoidably bigger than allocated.

Another argument that is commonly put forward in favour of amalgamation is that there are severe discontinuities between Wellington councils in regards to economic development, transport, water, wastewater and stormwater services, and co-ordination of regional planning. One: is it really that bad? Two: could the existing structure of the GWRC improve this? Three: do we need to go to the extreme of amalgamating councils, or are there less severe steps that should be seriously considered?

Proponents of amalgamation include much of the business community, for reasons such as simpler building consent processes and less bureaucracy. Greater Wellington Regional Council chairperson Fran Wilde also seems quite keen on the idea. (A side note about Fran Wilde: she was recently harassed online for being a feminist in a position of power.)

The Wellington Region is said by some to have very few people for the number of councils, to the extent that it’s excessive—but I think there’s such diversity among the people that this is warranted. Having smaller districts is part of the nature of New Zealand local government, and what makes it beneficial. We need to keep our current apparently numerous and small councils, to ensure better representation of the constituents, and more accountability of those elected.

Celia is very notably not in favour of council amalgamation, but, as is seeming more and more often to be the case, her councillors do not share her views on the matter. Is this an organised coup, to disagree with every stance Celia takes?

In any case, any plans to amalgamate, if it comes to that, will be taken to referendum.

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  1. Susy says:

    Thanks for starting the ball rolling with this isinhgt.

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