15 Mar 2017

Commission recommends merged Wairarapa councils

5:33 am on 15 March 2017

Wairarapa's three existing councils would merge into a single body under a draft proposal just released by the Local Government Commission.

Dry conditions east of Masterton.

Farmland east of Masterton. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The document proposes amalgamating Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils, while staying within the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The new council would have a mayor, 12 councillors and 21 elected community board members.

That would mean fewer elected members per resident but the commission said that level of representation would be similar to other comparable councils, such as Marlborough or Whanganui.

The commission has been working with the councils on the proposal since the failed Wellington super-city bid in 2015.

About two-thirds of residents were in favour, the commission said.

Commission chair Sir Wira Gardiner said the proposed structure would "best promote good local government, meet community interests and aspirations, and facilitate economic performance".

"In developing the detail of the proposal we built on work done by the three Wairarapa councils in their 2013 application to the commission for a combined unitary council,'' Sir Wira said.

"We maintained open and constructive relationships with the Wairarapa mayors and councillors; we had independent experts test various options using agreed facts and base figures; we held numerous public meetings and engagement events across the district to meet and talk to residents and ratepayers, seeking their views on the preferred form of local government for the district."

All submissions would be considered and there would be an opportunity for submitters to present their views in person at public hearings in late May, he said.

Any decision to move to a final proposal would be made once the commission had heard and considered submissions on the draft proposal.

Public submissions would remain open until early May, with hearings to follow.

If the proposal were adopted, a new Wairarapa Council could be elected as early as 2018.