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May 6, 2019 | by  | in News |
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How It Works: Local Government In Wellington


Local government controls a lot of massive stuff. A common misconception is that they only run the library and our rubbish collection, but there’s heaps more to it than that. Our council(s) have huge stakes in climate change, our mental health system, sexual health prevention services, managing homelessness, controlling how many goats you’re allowed to keep as pets, and what time the liquor stores can stay open until.


Local government (a.k.a local authorities) is a decentralised form of government that manages community-specific issues. Currently, however, there is a serious democratic deficit in the ways that local body politics typically engage and work within our communities.


There are three different types of local government elections to vote in on election day: the Wellington City Council, the Greater Wellington Regional Council, and Capital and Coast District Health Board. Each has different responsibilities and cover different areas—though don’t supersede each other.


Territorial authorities (e.g. Wellington City Council)

There are two types of territorial authorities: City councils represent a population of more than 50,000 people that are predominantly urban-based. District councils have a smaller but more widely dispersed population.


What they cover: Water supply, city safety, roading and public transport, solid waste collection and disposal, the avoidance and mitigation of natural hazards, regulatory services, libraries, museums, reserves, recreational facilities, and other community infrastructure.


WCC is made up of just over 1300 employees, including 15 City Councillors, plus ya mayor Justin Lester. The Councillors are your representatives across five wards in the city. In addition, we’ve got two local boards: Tawa Community Board and Makara/Ohariu Community Board.


Regional Councils (e.g. Greater Wellington Regional Council)

The main responsibility of a regional council is to manage environmental, resource, and transport planning issues for the whole region. (A region may include a number of territorial authorities.)


For example: Transport, water supply, pollution control, land management, regional parks and forests, harbours, flood protection, environment, and biosecurity.


District health boards (e.g. CCDHB)

These boards are responsible for the oversight of health and disability services within their communities. They are responsible for issues like funding mental health systems, and local GPs’ community care.


Local Govt vs Central Government:

Local government is separate from central government (the Beehive). However, in some instances, specific statutes may establish responsibility or accountability relationships between local authorities and central government.


Why should we give a shit?

You pay rates (basically local taxes). Homeowners front the brunt of it, but if you’re renting, some of what you pay the landlord will end up going to the big yellow Wellington City Council building. User fees, service fees, and parking fees all also contribute to the city councils.


Unfortunately, only 44% of us (18- to 24-year-olds) voted in the 2016 local elections. And, honestly, our response is entirely rational within a system that does everything to resist local democratic expressions. We do have some people working to change this stuff though—campaigns like ‘Save Fountown’, #DontGuessTheYes and Fairer Fares have all worked to influence local government.


If you’re 18 years old by October 12 you can vote. At any age, though, you can submit on councils’ plans, and attend or speak at meetings.


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