23 Mar 2012

Wellington mayors at odds over 'super city' idea

7:15 pm on 23 March 2012

Two Wellington region mayors are at odds over whether a "super city" along the lines of Auckland is a good idea for the region.

Wellington city mayor Celia Wade-Brown says she is sceptical about the idea, though it should be put to the public.

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett says it would give the region a stronger voice in central government, mirroring what Auckland and Christchurch have.

The Wellington Regional Council is proposing setting up an independent panel to investigate super-city options for the region.

The panel would assess four governance models and recommend the one it thinks is best.

The regional council will vote on the idea next Tuesday and, if it passes, it will be put to the eight other territorial councils in the Wellington region.

More local representation favoured

Ms Wade-Brown says there are big differences in needs across the region, and it would be quite difficult to gather the views of everyone from Miramar to Masterton to try and present them in a unified way.

She says it is more efficient and closer to the community to have more local representation.

Mr Leggett says the large Auckland and Christchurch entities are focusing a lot of the Government's attention on themselves and the Wellington region needs to be able to do the same.

He says the debate is an acknowledgment that the region's councils could be doing things better.

The super-city move has been prompted by the Government's newly announced reforms for councils, aimed at making them operate more efficiently and keep rates down.

'We have to lift our game' - Wilde

Wellington Regional council chair Fran Wilde says the region is not in dire straits but it could do better.

"We do know that they are doing much better in Auckland now than they ever have before," she says.

"We also know there is a lot of focus of the nation on Christchurch, rightly, and Wellington is losing a few jobs actually in the public sector and continuing its tradition of losing private-sector business to the north and overseas - so we do have to lift our game."

If the regional council supports the idea of the panel, it will be set up by the end of April with a view to a new governance model being in place for the next local body elections in 2013.