Wellington councils consider amalgamation


First it was Auckland, now it may be Wellington’s turn. The region is looking at the possibility of a single council to replace the four district councils, the four city councils and the regional council.

This would be a “unitary authority” which would combine the functions and powers of all levels of local government into one new local authority – the Greater Wellington Council. The new council would have 21 councillors representing eight wards, each of which would have a directly elected local board. There would also be a mayor elected by voters across the region.

While there are some similarities there are a number of differences between the Wellington and Auckland situations. Most importantly the decision to amalgamate the Auckland councils was made by the government who developed their own model and imposed it through legislation. The current proposal was developed by the Local Government Commission following applications from Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Wairarapa councils who wanted a separate unitary authority for their district. It is subject to submissions and, if a referendum is called for, a vote of all eligible residents within the proposed councils’ boundaries.

The PSA is making a submission to the Local Government Commission and we have been gathering views of members in all the affected councils. They have a number of concerns about what it will mean for their localities, their residents and the services they receive. They are also concerned about the likelihood that more services in areas such as parks, drainage and recreation, will be contracted out. The submission will address these issues, but also issues about the transition to the new council, should the amalgamation go ahead.

We have learned a lot from the Auckland amalgamation, where the PSA had a central role in the move from the old to the new council. We need to be assured that services will be maintained, that there will be quality jobs, fair pay and conditions and secure jobs, and the PSA has to be around the table. Anything less will leave problems for the new council and its staff.

 

This article is from the March 2015 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.