Two reform options for Wellington region unveiled
Local Government Reform Working Party Media release
EMBARGOED UNTIL 3PM, MARCH 8, 2013
Two reform options for Wellington region unveiled
A working party looking at local government reform has proposed consulting the public on two new council models for the Wellington region.
A report by the working party, with representatives from Greater Wellington Regional Council, Kapiti Coast District Council, Porirua City Council and Wellington City Council, sets outs two models for a single council with either one or two tiers of representation.
The councils will vote on whether to seek public comment on the report’s models at meetings between March 12 and 20.
The report leaves open the question of whether or not to include Wairarapa in a new council.
Local Government Reform Working Party Chair Ken Douglas said a single council would be better able to realise the region’s potential, as well as represent Wellington on the national and international stage.
“One council would deliver many efficiencies – stronger regional leadership, simpler, faster planning, cost savings that could be put back into services, clear accountability for decision-making, better infrastructure and infrastructure planning, to name just a few.
“All that would help to improve the region’s performance, which right now is lower than that of any other metropolitan region in the country.
“If we are to change, and we do need to change, it needs to be for the better. This means overcoming the structural impediments that are constraining the region. Local government can be more efficient, aligned, faster and with reduced duplication. Reform is the way to achieve this.”
Both models put forward by the working party have one chief executive and staff, and have one mayor elected at large and councillors elected by ward.
But one would have a single tier of governance – a council of up to 30 members – while the other would have two tiers, consisting of a governing council of up to 22 members and mandatory local boards. The seven or eight local boards would each have up to nine members and a chair elected by members.
Under the single-tier model, councillors would represent local and regional interests at the decision-making table. Under the two-tier model, councillors would deal with region-wide matters, while local board members would deal with local issues.
“The first thing is for all four councils to decide whether to support engaging the public on the options,” Mr Douglas said.
“The working party expects that all councils will want to have their communities understand and discuss what it has identified as the only two viable options to the status quo. To put it bluntly, if the status quo is not broken, it is, in our view, seriously buckled.
“Assuming the councils vote to proceed with public consultation, there are plans in place for public meetings, a website with lots of resources and background information, and a mechanism for making submissions.
“Councils will be expected to report back on the outcome of their consultation before proceeding to any formal decision on lodging an application.”
Any application to the Local Government Commission to reform local government in the region would probably be lodged around the end of May.
Mr Douglas said it was important to remember that the commission had the final say on the shape of any new local government structure.
“Councils can make an application, as can any interested party, but it’s the commission that decides on the final proposal for the region.
“It’s a long process involving lots of opportunities for the public to have their say – including, almost certainly, a vote by electors throughout the region on a final proposal.”
Government Reform Working Party report
• Brief description of models
• Possible reform timeline
THE MODELS AT A GLANCE
Under this model, there is one council with a single tier of decision-making made up of a mayor elected across the region and up to 29 councillors elected from local wards. Councillors represent regional and local interests at the decision-making table.
The council is responsible for all functions, duties and powers assigned to it under relevant legislation. There is a provision for the council to establish community boards if there is a desire from communities to have them.
Representation arrangements for a single-tier council change depending on whether Wairarapa is included, or whether Wairarapa councils amalgamate to form a separate unitary authority.
Under this model, there are two tiers of decision-making - a governing council and local boards.
Decision-making is shared between the governing body and local boards. The council has a single administration, with one chief executive supporting both levels of elected representatives.
The governing body consists of a mayor elected across the region and 21 councillors elected on a ward basis. The governing body focuses on region-wide strategic decisions and regional-scale infrastructure and services.
There are seven or eight local boards, each with up to nine members and with a chairperson elected by the board. Local boards have functions and make decisions on a number of local issues, activities and facilities. The boards have legally mandated decision-making abilities, with additional delegations from the governing body. Local boards also provide important local input into region-wide policies and are funded in accordance with their functions, duties and powers.
Representation arrangements for the two-tier council change depending on whether Wairarapa is included, or whether Wairarapa councils amalgamate to form a separate unitary authority.
POSSIBLE TIMELINE FOR REFORM
Local Government Reform Working Party produces report that recommends public engagement on two models
Four councils participating in Working Party vote on whether to seek public views on models
Late March to late April
Public meetings, information campaign and feedback through website
If an application is recommended, a draft application to Local Government Commission is drawn up based on a preferred model and public feedback
Each of the councils votes on application
End of May
Councils submit an application to commission.
Commission decides whether to accept application and invites others in the region to submit alternative models for change. (There is a deadline of 20 working days to submit alternatives.)
Commission considers proposals and comes up with its own draft proposal.
End of October
Consultation takes place on draft proposal. (Note: Local elections based on current boundaries are scheduled for October 12.)
Final proposal is made public.
A petition may be organised, calling for a poll on the proposal. (This assumes a group, made up of 10 per cent of electors from an affected district, calls for a poll. If no poll is organised, the proposal automatically takes effect.)
A poll is organised and ratepayers vote on the proposal.
Result of poll is known. If proposal wins at least 50 per cent support, steps can be taken to implement proposal. This would be organised by the Local Government Commission and would include the setting up of a transition authority to establish a new local government structure.