positive to see the Local Government Commission has put forward a sound
proposal for the Wairarapa, but the ongoing piecemeal approach to reform is not
tackling the wider national issue of whether councils can plan, fund and meet
long-term local needs," says Stephen Selwood Chief Executive of
Infrastructure New Zealand.
The Commission has
proposed that the existing Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa district
councils be brought together into a single Wairarapa District Council. The new
entity will have a single mayor, elected at large, and 12 councillors elected
across seven wards.
Wairarapa will have the
choice of either accepting or rejecting the Commission’s proposal, likely in a
poll next year.
proposal will deliver a more capable and better resourced council for the area.
The larger entity will have improved capacity for strategic planning, a bigger
balance sheet to support investment prioritisation and will be able to speak
with a louder, united voice on behalf of all of Wairarapa.
"We agree with the
Commission that these benefits can be realised whilst maintaining local
representation and identity through community boards.
"In our view,
community boards should be delegated with appropriate powers and funding at the
local level to support community needs.
"This proposal is
definitely a step forward for Wairarapa.
"But it is still
not clear whether the new 40,000 resident entity will be sufficient to meet
long term challenges. Nor is it clear what the solution is for New Zealand’s 64
other territorial authorities, most of whom find themselves facing exactly the
same issues as the Wairarapa.
across virtually all of New Zealand is constraining the ability of councils to
increase rates at the same time as billions of dollars of infrastructure comes
up for renewal. Together with increased expectations for environmental
performance, greater health and safety requirements, stronger heritage
protections and other directives from central government, growth councils are
responding by underfunding new development and impeding housing supply.
"The whole system
by which councils are funded, the responsibilities they have and the decisions
they are required to make is unsustainable and needs to be revised.
"Meeting long term
challenges requires governance structures which allow effective planning
supported by resources and delivery capability. This is as true for councils in
the South Island as it is in the Wairarapa and rest of the North Island.
"What is required
is a first principles review of local government’s role in New Zealand, how
councils are resourced and what the optimum structures are for meeting 21st
century needs," Selwood says.
For further information and comment contact
Stephen Selwood on 021 791 209