Reform of the region's local government has moved a step closer with today's decision by Greater Wellington Regional Council to endorse public consultation on two models for change against the status quo.
The regional council was the last of four councils involved in jointly developing the models to vote on seeking public comment.
Councillors in Kapiti, Porirua and Wellington have already backed an engagement plan that includes six weeks of public meetings, stakeholder workshops and presentations to civic, community and business groups.
In addition, a website will provide detailed information from tomorrow about the proposed models for change, along with a way to make submissions and join an online discussion forum. Advertising will begin on Saturday, followed early next month by a flyer to every letterbox in the region.
Both models for change propose a single council for the region, which may or may not include Wairarapa. One has a single tier of representation – a mayor and up to 29 councillors – while the other has a mayor and fewer councillors in the first tier – up to 21 – but a second tier of up to eight local boards. The alternative would be the status quo.
Regional council chair Fran Wilde said the consultation process was a genuine attempt to gauge what people thought of the proposed options for change.
"Although we won't have a formal position on a preferred option till after the consultation, regional councillors have strongly supported the two-tier option in their discussion because it allows local communities to make decisions on local issues."
She said the need for change was overwhelming.
"We lack a single plan to guide our future. Instead we have nearly 400 local plans and policies, often on the same issue and often conflicting. We lack a single voice. Instead we have nine voices speaking mostly for their own patch ahead of what is best for the region. We used to have one of the strongest regional economies in the country but now we are towards the bottom of the heap in a number of indicators. And we lack a presence on the national stage. Instead we increasingly stand in the shadow of a united, growing Auckland and a resurgent Christchurch.
"The changes being proposed will result in stronger regional leadership, better infrastructure management, less duplication, improved efficiency, simpler planning and an improved ability to deal with disasters."
Ms Wilde said the regional councillors strongly supported Wairarapa continuing to be part of the region, but this view was not endorsed by all the other councils on the joint working party. The final decision on all issues would be made by the Local Government Commission.
Mw Wilde said the submission form on the website gave people the chance to express a preference and she encouraged them to do so.
The first public meeting is scheduled in Carterton on April 3.
The website www.regionalreform.org.nz will go live tomorrow.