10 Jun 2015

Division over scrapping of supercity proposal

8:41 pm on 10 June 2015

While some Māori leaders and mayors are celebrating the scrapping of a supercity proposal for the Wellington region, Porirua's mayor says it's a missed opportunity.


Wairapapa won't be lumped in with Wellington. Photo: 123RF

Plans to merge all nine councils in the Greater Wellington Region into one authority were rejected by the Local Government Commission yesterday because there was little support.

The decision to bin the supercity proposal has been met with approval from many people including all but one of the nine mayors.

In March, Porirua City Mayor Nick Leggett told Te Manu Korihi that there hadn't been a shake-up of local government in New Zealand for more than 20 years, and the Wellington region in particular was well overdue for a change.

Mayor of Porirua, Nick Leggett, in front of a painting by Robyn Kahukiwa.

Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett Photo: RNZ / Gareth Thomas

He said he was disappointed that Porirua would not be amalgamated with Wellington because the status quo did not work for his city.

"There's no doubt that this is a lost opportunity for the Wellington region," Mr Leggett said.

"If you listen to other regional mayors and indeed people from around the region including iwi groups, something has to change.

"There are very few people that think that the status quo is our only option. We have to now approach discussion with some firm principles about what we want to achieve by change, we've got to make sure that change looks better than what we've currently got.

"I do think that we've got to do better as a region and that's what the change discussion was all about."

Mr Leggett also said that the current structure would be unsustainable for Porirua in the future because it did not have the resources like the city of Wellington had.

Neville Baker.

Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust chair Neville Baker Photo: RNZ / Gareth Thomas

But as far as Wellington- and Hutt Valley-based iwi Te Ātiawa are concerned, the current system is fine.

Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust chair Neville Baker said, either way, his iwi would have adapted.

"We've always had the same tribal boundaries, and what we would be looking to do if the supercity proposal was accepted, we would've continued to work as we always have, but with a wider administrative situation," Mr Baker said.

"But basically we're talking about the status quo at the moment, so for us it's business as usual."

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

New Zealand First spokesperson for local government and former Carterton mayor Ron Mark said, although he was happy that Wairarapa won't become part of a supercity, he was annoyed the commission ignored the proposal for a Wairarapa unitary authority.

He said such a unitary authority would have also worked well for Ngāti Kahungnu ki Wairarapa chair PJ Devonshire, who wanted to deal with one local government authority.

"The unitary authority would have given Mr Devonshire one governing body to be in partnership with," Mr Mark said.

"If the Wairarapa unitary authority, which is what Wairarapa proposed to the Local Government Commission had been accepted, we would've ended up with one council being replaced and PJ Devonshire would've got exactly what he wanted, one body to deal with.

"But the other point to always bear in mind - it's not actually PJ's or Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated's responsibility to be dealing with the governing territorial authority on hapū-related matters, it's actually up to that hapū and that marae."

All three leaders Te Manu Korihi spoke to agreed that some important kōrero needs to happen about the best way forward to create an effective local government structure for the Greater Wellington Region.

Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa chair PJ Devonshire could not be reached for comment.

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