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Local government debate is far from over

Regional business surveys shows local government debate is far from over

Regional business surveys conducted in advance of submissions closing on the Local Government Commission’s draft proposal show that the debate on the right model for Wellington is far from over.

Surveys of members by the Chambers of Commerce in Wellington, Hutt Valley, Porirua, Kapiti and Wairarapa show that across the region many businesses want to see some form of unification and change from the current model of nine councils.

In Wellington, a survey conducted earlier this month by the Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce which attracted 715 responses shows that 62% of respondents want some form of change – 46% want one council with local boards while 16% prefer change but of a different model. Some 10% were undecided.

Chief Executive John Milford says the findings are in line with other surveys the Chamber has conducted over the past two years.

“Since 2011, we’ve asked our members their view and on average over 70 per cent of respondents have said they want to see some form of change. Our members believe that having nine separate councils is holding the Wellington region back.

"Business has been asking for a reduction in duplication, the benefits of bringing to scale, a change in culture from within council, efficiency and cost reductions. While there is no guarantee that a unified council will solve all our problems, it will go a long way towards ensuring we are regionally strategic and make the best use of ratepayer’s resources.”

In Porirua, a recent survey of Chamber members showed that about 75% of respondents want change, with 35% supporting the LGC proposal and 40% suggested improvements to it. Some 26% were opposed to it, and half of those preferred a model that excludes Wairarapa. The key positive elements perceived by the participants were streamlined services, cost savings and having a strategic regional direction.

“Our survey results show there is a very real appetite for change,” Porirua Chamber President Peter Couchman says.

“Our members believe that changing the current local government model will support improved local representation, ensure a greater commitment to developing regional infrastructure, and better quality leadership. Nearly half of survey respondents believe that streamlined services is the most significant benefit of the proposal.

In Kapiti, a survey of members showed that 65% of respondents are in favour of change, with 47.5% supporting the LGC proposal and a further 17.5% supporting it with changes. Just 20% opposed it, while 10% preferred an alternative model.

Kapiti Chamber of Commerce Chair Liz Koh says they share the considerable concern that the process of consultation is short and valuable time has been lost over the summer break. “Furthermore, we are concerned that while some local bodies have spent hundreds of thousands of ratepayer funded dollars objecting to the proposals, the general public have been denied a public information programme that puts the arguments for and against the amalgamation proposals in an independent and impartial manner.”

In Hutt Valley, a Chamber of Commerce survey which attracted 540 responses showed that businesses are undecided on the LGC proposal.

Chief Executive Mark Futter says: “While many respondents did not readily accept the proposal in its current form, the balance of sentiment shows that many are open to some form of change.”

The Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce surveyed its members in mid-December last year, and the results show that 65% of respondents support the LGC’s proposal, with 79% in favour of some form of change to the current model.

Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Steph Gundersen-Reid says her members see real benefit in making changes to the current local government arrangements.

“We also believe there are some ways we can improve the current proposal. Our members’ feedback includes a proposal to introduce a Rural Advisory Committee as a standing and permanent committee of the council.”

ENDS

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