Wairarapa mayors clash over amalgamation

4:46 pm on 4 March 2024
Carterton Mayor Ron Mark.

Carterton Mayor Ron Mark says his council "sees things at a higher level". FIle photo. Photo: ELLIE FRANCO / LDR

Carterton Mayor Ron Mark is standing firm on his support for the amalgamation of Wairarapa's three councils, despite Masterton postponing talks.

Mark said he and fellow Carterton councillors had recently reaffirmed their support for a merger, labelling it "a smart thing to do".

"There are those of us who see Wairarapa as one… but some people enjoy being mayor and being councillors and they see things at their level," Mark said.

"My council sees things at a higher level, rather than their own sphere of importance."

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell announced yesterday that his council had opted not to allocate any resources at this time towards further exploration of the possibility of merging with Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils.

"While the door remains open to future discussions initiated by the Local Government Commission, we are mindful of not diverting valuable time, energy, and resources away from critical priorities," he said.

"Our focus is currently on the Long-Term Plan process, ensuring a balanced approach to fostering district growth while maintaining affordability and delivering value to our ratepayers."

Responding to Mark's comments, Caffell said it was "absolutely ridiculous to say that our decision has been motivated in any way by the desire for the mayor and councillors to keep their jobs".

"That has never been part of any discussion our council has had and never would be and is demeaning to a group of men and women who are working bloody hard to do the best by their community," he said.

"The very last thing they could be accused of is self-interest.

"Our whole motivation behind our current move is to ensure we can put the time and resources into ensuring that we deliver a Long-Term Plan which delivers value for our ratepayers and that we keep progressing initiatives which directly benefit our community."

Caffell said Masterton District Council was actively engaged in developing strategies for sports facilities, parking, spatial planning, and the ongoing refinement of the Wairarapa Combined District Plan - "initiatives that directly benefit our community".

"While we are open to dialogue with the Local Government Commission, if they choose to broach the subject, disrupting our current operations unnecessarily would undermine the high levels of service we consistently provide to our community."

In October, Carterton District Council [CDC] approved an unbudgeted expenditure of $50,000 to support the investigation into amalgamation, on the condition that equivalent funding commitments were made by Masterton District Council [MDC] and South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC].

But in December MDC decided against funding their portion of a merger investigation.

So CDC will not be allocating any funding towards the investigation at this stage, a CDC spokesperson said.

Mark said he was proud of his councillors for "knowing our model is not sustainable in the long term", and being open to exploring other options.

"Good leaders do what is best for their community, even if it means sacrificing their own job."

He said CDC would continue looking at "options available".

Acting South Wairarapa Mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter said her council's view on amalgamation had not changed.

"We remain open to future conversations at the appropriate time with Masterton and Carterton district councils," she said.

"However, there isn't an appetite to commit funds or dedicate resources until we have evidence that supports amalgamation providing better services and value for our communities."

SWDC would continue to prioritise the best outcomes for South Wairarapa, in particular its immediate water and roading activities, she said.

"I have every confidence that SWDC councillors make decisions and form their positions based on what they believe will provide the best outcomes for the communities they represent."

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