5 Dec 2014

Supercity opponents plan referendum

10:30 am on 5 December 2014

Opponents of the proposed Wellington supercity are already gearing up to force a referendum on the plan.

Wellington council

The Local Government Commission is proposing to merge Wellington's nine councils into a single council. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The Local Government Commission yesterday unveiled its draft proposal to amalgamate the region's nine councils into one.

The draft proposal will be open to submissions until March 2015. Once the commission releases its final proposal, it will go to a referendum if enough people sign a petition opposing it.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said yesterday that the proposal was likely to be voted down if it went to a referendum.

Johnsonville Community Association spokesperson Graeme Sawyer said he would sign any petition because a supercity would mean less of a voice for groups such as his.

"If it were to happen, it wouldn't be an entirely good thing for us because we struggle enough to get the level of input and resources from Wellington City," he said.

"A larger city would make it just that much more difficult again."

Many opponents of the proposal, including Ms Celia Wade-Brown and Labour MP Grant Robertson, have said a referendum on it should be automatic.

New Zealand First MP and former Carterton mayor Ron Mark said the prospect of a petition to force a referendum had angered Wairarapa residents.

Mr Mark told Morning Report surveys had already shown at least 80 percent of people in Wairarapa did not support a super-city covering the whole region.

"I think what has got people really angry right now is that they're having to ask for a referendum, whereas under the old legislation, before this Government changed the Local Government Act, you would have a referendum automatically."

Mr Mark said Wellington should learn from Auckland's experience that it should retain direct democracy and city leaders who are accessible.

But Greater Wellington Regional Council chair Fran Wilde said it was always intended for the public to decide on plans for a supercity and that the current system was fair.

"There is no question there will be a referendum. I have been appalled by some opponents who are trying to pretend this is going to be sneaked through by three members of the Local Government Commission and people won't have a say."

To force a referendum, 10 percent of the people living in any city, region or district must sign a petition opposing the proposal - once submissions are considered and a final plan is issued.

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