Why has the LGC proposed that representation be reduced?
Reduced representation is bad for democracy and the proposal will concentrate power in fewer hands.
The LGC proposal is that the Wairarapa District be divided into seven wards Featherston, Greytown, Martinborough, Carterton, Masterton, Maungaraki and Te Kauru.
The proposed new district would have a mayor and 12 councillors.
The mayor would be elected at large and the councillors from wards, as follows:
|Proposed Ward||Current District Council||Councillors in
The effect of this is that local government of the Wairarapa would be dominated by the representatives from the area of the current Masterton Council (effectively 7 of 12 councillors from the Masterton region) and there would also be a reduction in the number of councillors per head of population.
While there are references to community boards and their role, there is no obligation on the proposed new council to give them any specific powers. As people have seen with the Wairarapa Committee of the Greater Wellington Regional Council, committees and local boards can be so constrained that they are ineffective.
The LGC seems to have approached representation with the view that reduced representation is better, in line with its bias towards “bigger is better” and that increased centralisation and control is better.
The LGC has taken some comments made during the resistance of the Wairarapa to its Wellington Super City proposal out of context. It has wrongly inferred that there is a "whole of Wairarapa view" on a large range of matters and that this, at least partly, justifies the formation of a single district council. The fact is that there is no widespread whole of Wairarapa view on many matters at all.
Whilst the towns of the Wairarapa cooperate on several matters the LGC has ignored the fact that each town values its own distinct culture and environment which creates the valued diversity of the region.
Cooperation vs amalgamation
Further progress can be made through cooperation across the region where there is a will do so. However, the reality is that progress on Wairarapa-wide initiatives such as economic development, and arts, culture and heritage have foundered lately because of the unwillingness of the Masterton District Council and management to engage with the other councils and affected communities. The extent to which this may indicate that cross valley combined initiatives may have gone as far as they can under the current structure it is not an argument for amalgamation.
The proposal to amalgamate places disproportionate power in the hands of Masterton voters and politicians. This will increase risk to the economic future of the rest of the Wairarapa. Masterton has demonstrated, for example with the refresh of the CBD, an ineffective approach to provision of local services that the proposal will embed. To better understand this point, compare the Masterton refresh of the CBD with the growth of businesses in the towns in the South of the Wairarapa including new businesses and businesses that have left Masterton.