2 Mar 2015

Wellington supercity submissions close today

2:19 pm on 2 March 2015

Today is the final day people can have their say on a controversial plan to roll the nine councils in the Wellington region into one.

Wellington city

Photo: 123rf

So far more than 5000 people have made submissions about the Greater Wellington Council.

The proposal would create a single mayor, with 21 councillors from eight wards.

Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt, Kapiti Coast, Porirua and the Wairarapa would have one local board each and Wellington would be split into three wards - Ohariu, Lambton, and Rongotai.

Lower Hutt mayor Ray Wallace said the level of of opposition before submissions had even closed made it clear that the Local Government Commission needed to head back to the drawing board.

"The Local Government Commission has got this woefully wrong," he said.

"There's been no groundswell of grassroots community wanting this amalgamation proposal."

Ray Wallace.

Ray Wallace. Photo: RNZ / Eru Rerekura

Mr Wallace said six of the nine councils had signed a joint call for the plan to be scrapped and redone, on top of their own submissions.

Porirua was still keen on a supercity, but said if it went ahead it should not include the Wairarapa.

A recent poll commissioned by the Wellington City Council showed only about a quarter of residents supported the proposal.

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett said while opinion polls may well show amalgamation was not popular, the popular choice was not always the right one.

"Twenty five years ago, which was the last round of local government change, a whole lot of promises were made by people who didn't believe that change was going to be effective."

"They were pretty soon silenced by the actual operations. I absolutely believe that communities can work together [and] and that this can work."

Greater Wellington Regional Council put forward the proposal to merge the councils in the first place, but at a meeting last week nearly half of the councillors voted to withdraw support.

The Regional Council's chair Fran Wilde said the divide was nothing new and had always been expected.

She said much of the opposition came from the experience of local boards in Auckland's supercity, who felt excluded from the decision making table.

Fran Wilde.

Fran Wilde. Photo: SUPPLIED

But she said that would notbe the case in Wellington.

"The biggest criticism by people who probably haven't read the proposal is that the local boards will be toothless tigers, they'll have to go begging to the other part of the council."

"But that's not what the Auckland boards are now saying. They're saying we're actually getting there."

She said the process had also been changed since Auckland amalgamated, so Wellington would not experience the same troubles.

The three Wairarapa councils - Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa - wanted to become a single council, but remain independent of Wellington.

Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson said she hoped Wairarapa's relatively small voice was heard by the commission.

"[We hope] that they will... take on board what we're saying as a community and work with us to get some resolution or some final proposal that we all will have a bit more faith in," she said.

Submissions close at 4pm today.

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