Regional business seeks Wellington local government change

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Posted by Liz Koh on 9 June 2015

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Regional business still seeks change for Wellington’s local government structure, debate far from over

Chambers of Commerce
Hutt Valley | Kapiti | Porirua | Wairarapa | Wellington

Media Release
9th June 2015

Chambers of Commerce from across the Wellington region have expressed disappointment in the decision released by the Local Government Commission today, but welcome the commission’s undertaking that it will now work to set out a new proposal.

Surveys conducted in advance of submissions closing on the Local Government Commission's draft proposal show that the debate on the right model for Wellington is far from over.

Surveys of members by the Chambers of Commerce in Hutt Valley, Kapiti, Porirua, Wairarapa, and Wellington show that across the region many businesses want to see some form of unification and change from the current model of nine councils.

Despite today’s decision there remains a huge appetite for change across the region, and the chamber’s urge the commission to look at fresh options. All Chambers of Commerce believe it is imperative that the issue is resolved before the local body elections next year.

In Wellington, a survey conducted earlier this year by the Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce which attracted 715 responses shows that 62% of respondents want some form of change. Chief Executive John Milford says that today’s outcome is disappointing.

"While abandoning the proposed local government amalgamation model for the Wellington is a missed opportunity, we must make sure the commission considers the view from the business community – change still is preferable.

“Since 2011, we've asked our members their view and on average over 75 per cent of respondents have said they want to see some form of change. Our members believe that having nine separate councils is holding the Wellington region back.

"Business has been asking for a reduction in duplication, the benefits of bringing to scale, a change in culture from within council, efficiency and cost reductions. We have another chance to come together to get the best for the region. Wellington region is not doing as well as we should be, or as well as we could be. Change to our local government arrangements is a factor that would help to move the region forward. We’ve got to seize the opportunity.”

In Porirua, the survey of Chamber members showed that about 75% of respondents want change. Some 26% were opposed to it, and half of those preferred a model that excludes Wairarapa. The key positive elements perceived by the participants were streamlined services, cost savings and having a strategic regional direction.

"Our survey results show our members have a very real appetite for change," Porirua Chamber Executive Director Tracy Johnson says.

"Our members believe that the current local government model must change to support improved local representation, ensure a greater commitment to developing regional infrastructure, and better quality leadership.

In Kapiti, a survey of members showed that 65% of respondents are in favour of change. Just 20% opposed it, while 10% preferred an alternative model. Kapiti Chamber of Commerce Chair Liz Koh says they share the considerable concern that the process of consultation was less than ideal and that the commission must better engage with the community to ensure the process is credible.

"Furthermore, we are concerned that while some local bodies have spent hundreds of thousands of ratepayer dollars objecting to the proposals, the general public have been denied a public information programme that puts the arguments for and against the amalgamation proposals in an independent and impartial manner.

In Hutt Valley, a Chamber of Commerce survey which attracted 540 responses showed that businesses will welcome the outcome of today’s announcement, but that an alternative model must be pursued. Chief Executive Mark Futter says: "While many respondents did not readily accept the proposal in its current form, the balance of sentiment shows that many are open to some form of change.”

The Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce survey showed that 79% were in favour of some form of change to the current model. Chief Executive Steph Gundersen-Reid says her members see real benefit in making changes to the current local government arrangements.

"We have always maintained that there are further ways the commission could improve the proposal and we look forward to quickly progressing this."

All Chambers of Commerce will now seek from its members for a mandate on the possible options now open to the commission.

ENDS

For more information please contact the following representatives:

Wellington: John Milford 027 580 3064
Porirua: Tracy Johnson 021 339 324
Kapiti: Liz Koh 021 313 339
Hutt Valley: Mark Futter 021 442 447
Wairarapa: Steph Gundersen-Reid 021 665 870

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