Monday, July 30, 2007

The time is right to amalgamate the Hutt Valley cities...

While Auckland debates the value of having one super - council in its region, something being considered by central government as well, the time for a similar debate in the Wellinton region is probably as equally as valuable.

In the Hutt Valley it is actually something that has come of age, if you like. Its time is now! I've said it publicly before along with a number of others, that Upper and Lower Hutt cities should be amalgamated to ensure that better planning and utilisation of current and future resources in this valley can be achieved, including that most valuable of all - people!

I have never understood why the amalgamations of 1989 were not completed with the amalgamation of the two Hutt Valley entities as well. In hindsight it was a very bad decision. It allowed the two cities to meander along without real growth or planning for the future.

In Lower Hutt's case they inanely changed the name of its local authority to the Hutt City Council, obviously under pressure from the three former boroughs, Wainuiomata, Petone and Eastbourne. These three new suburbs were given special status by being given elected community boards for second tier representation, while the original suburbs were unfairly given council appointed ward committies. Despite having the opportunity to ensure equal representation for all residents of Lower Hutt City, the David Ogden led council even disestablished the meagre representation of council appointed ward committees.

These former boroughs have pressurised the Hutt City Council into a de facto name change for Lower Hutt(Hutt City) - something illegal and breaching Geographic Board legislation. The Hutt City Council could yet be taken to court and those responsible prosecuted. We all remember the inane threats of secession from Eastbourne when they thought they wouldn't have second tier representation in the next three years. The Ogden led council quickly buckled under to the threats of the over- represented and over resourced Eastbournites. Central government would never have allowed Eastbourne to secede from Lower Hutt in any case.

This final piece of the jigsaw could be debated this year, and a residents poll held in conjunction with next year's parliamentary elections.

If the eventual decision is in the affirmative, a working party comprising city councillors and council officers from both councils could meet as soon as possible to come up with some guidelines on how amalgamation would take place; and whether a city or district council should be established. However the latter could also be decided during a residents poll. A district council would ensure that a lot of the parochialism that exists would be terminated. Second tier representation could also be decided by the new local authority.

In the interim period the Hutt City Council would be well advised to promote the city correctly as 'Lower Hutt', not by the illegal term of Hutt City. They have been in breach of Geographic Board legislation for many years, and could yet be prosecuted if any body or individual within the city objected. Imagine the damage to Mayor Ogden's election campaign if somebody did decide to lay charges with the police in coming week.

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