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Regional amalgamation with Local Boards the way to go

Regional amalgamation with Local Boards the way to go say Better Hutt Valley group

The Hutt Valley must be part of an amalgamated region says a new community group of residents.

Better Hutt Valley is a group of Hutt Valley people that have come together to support moves to amalgamate the 9 local authorities in the wider Wellington region, while ensuring that local issues remain under the control of Hutt Valley people.

The group strongly supports the use of Local Boards to ensure local democracy is protected, while having one overarching council that decides regional issues.

“We must have a system of local government that ensures the residents of Upper Hutt and Hutt City have a strong voice in important decisions that affect us all,” says group member John Welch. “People in places like Silverstream, Eastbourne, Wainuiomata, and Stokes Valley all need to be heard in local policy and funding decisions. But the region also needs one council that can make the really big decisions on infrastructure and spatial planning to get the region pulling in the same direction."

The group says that it understands why some people might be concerned about the Hutt Valley losing its identity following amalgamation. But group members argue this will not happen, largely because of the strong powers of the Local Boards and their guaranteed funding. Fellow group member Derek Wilshere says that “the clear lesson from Auckland is that places like Glenn Innes, Manukau, Papakura, and the North Shore have not only kept their identify, but they are actually thriving by being part of a large rating base that in turn allows the Local Boards to achieve some pretty amazing things in their areas.”

Michael Romanos points out that the independent Local Government Review Panel found that the Wellington region has fallen behind Auckland and Canterbury and is struggling to compete with international cities like Sydney and Brisbane. “Across Wellington we simply have too many councils. There is an absence of strategic decision-making across the councils on transport, natural resource management, planning, and economic development. Unfortunately the Hutt Valley is suffering as a result. In the recent BERL analysis of the economic performance of every New Zealand city, Upper Hutt came last for the second year in a row. And Hutt City fared little better.”

Judy Lawrence says that changes in climate risk and natural hazards will also require collective attention at a local government level. “The combined effects of storms, tides, and sea level rise will affect our coastal locations across the whole region. Increased frequency of heavy rainfall has significant implications for Hutt Valley communities and for the investment and design approach for networked utilities, especially stormwater investment decisions that last for decades. Both require a regionally consistent approach rather than each small local authority unit reinventing the wheel and straining resources.”

Group members are concerned that Hutt Valley residents have only heard one side of the argument around amalgamation. “There are an awful lot of people in the Hutt Valley who support regional amalgamation,” said Dick Werry. “I know because I’ve spoken to many of them. So far they’ve been drowned out by the two mayors who seem determined to push us down the path of isolation. We are hoping that with our group coming together, Hutt people will feel more comfortable voicing their support for coming together as a region.”

Better Hutt Valley says it is looking forward to the Local Government Commission’s announcements around the best form of local government for the region. This is now expected around June this year.

People interested in finding out more about the benefits of regional amalgamation for the Hutt Valley are encouraged to visit the website: www.betterhuttvalley.org.nz. The website allows people to become supporters of Better Hutt Valley and receive newsletters and alerts.

Better Hutt Valley 28 March 2014

The Better Hutt Valley members are:
• Phillip Blundell (Silverstream)
• Peter Glensor (Petone)
• Lou Gardiner (Silverstream)
• Ian Pike (Waterloo)
• Judy Lawrence (Point Howard)
• Theo Muller (Eastbourne)
• Michael Romanos (Silverstream)
• John Welch (Point Howard)
• Dick Werry (Petone)
• Derek Wilshere (Eastbourne)

ENDS

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