Seven Reasons to Oppose Amalgamation

(This was originally published in the Wairarapa MidWeek 12/4/17)

  1. The proposal doesn’t articulate the problem/s it’s supposed to be solving. The rationale seems to be that we indicated “a willingness for change”.  A solution to an unidentified problem isn’t a solution; it just creates more problems.
  2. Is amalgamation the appropriate tool to address the unstated problem/s? Amalgamations are costly, complicated and disruptive; we need to be certain that it will fix the unstated problem/s.
  3. The proposed council will have 12 councillors. Effectively, 7 of them are in or associated with Masterton (Masterton, Te Kaua and Maungaraki). With the mayor elected “at large” that probably means the mayor comes from Masterton. That is a council heavily weighted to Masterton interests.
  4. What are the “hard” benefits? Apparently, a $10m surplus after 10 years. Remember, there was no surplus in the 2016 figures. Where did the LGC find $10m? Mostly by dropping the IT costs estimates from $10m to $2.3m. Credible? (They published them as $25.5m in 2014 to demonstrate that the case for a Wairarapa Unitary Authority didn’t stack financially, now they’re $2.3m.)
  5. What are the “soft” benefits? Stronger mandate for mayor/councillors, simplified governance structure (with additional community boards?), consistent decision-making across the districts, potential productivity improvements etc etc. They all sound lovely but they can’t be measured.
  6. Where are the case studies? The draft proposal and associated documents fail to reference any case studies or examples where their proposed interventions (amalgamation, community boards, and standing committees) have been shown to be effective. We’re just left with their word for it. Not good enough.
  7. Climate change? The #1 risk identified by the World Economic Forum, “Extreme Weather Events”. Not mentioned.

There are alternatives. The three councils created a common roading contract saving $1m. The GWRC have set up a Wairarapa Committee at low cost. Cooperation and collaboration cost little for high returns – that’s a better future.

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