26 February 2015
"Reorganising local governance across the Wellington region will improve democratic decision making by giving the new Greater Wellington Council and Local Boards the tools to engage with residents and deliver on their expectations for infrastructure, community and regulatory services," says the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development in its submission to the Local Government Commission.
"The capacity of a unified local authority to plan strategically for the region as a whole, prioritise investment in transport and water according to greatest need and resource that investment vastly exceeds the ability of fragmented smaller councils to deliver local services.
"As local government representative body LGNZ points out in its recent funding report, Specialised regional organisations for land transport and the three waters would allow these infrastructure assets to be managed as a network. Costs and benefits would be spread across the network, and trade-offs could be made based on the best choices for the network as a whole, rather than being separated by political boundaries.
"Small councils acting independent of their wider geographical context are not well positioned to realise regional opportunities and lack the scale to implement.
"Shared services and regional collaboration can deliver improvements, but a single council for Wellington stands to deliver more efficient and effective infrastructure, regulatory and community services to its residents and businesses.
"Importantly, it also provides the opportunity to strengthen local representation through effective Local Boards.
"Under the Local Government Commissions proposal, council expertise across regional activities including economic development, transport, water, planning, regulation, funding and environmental management can be consolidated, leaving elected officials to do what they do best engage their communities, understand their concerns and feed this in to regional decision making.
"The Commission, through its final decision should consider increasing the number of local boards to further facilitate direct public participation in the overall decision making process.
"It should also strengthen its position on Council Controlled Organisations, taking into consideration the benefits of separating technical and operational decisions from strategic.
"Reorganising governance in Wellington provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver the best of both worlds - strengthened regional planning and implementation and improved local democracy," Selwood says.
For further comment:
Stephen Selwood, CEO