Kāpiti Coast District Councillor and local government reform advocate Gwynn Compton, has welcomed the announcement of a review into local government. He is urging the review to come up with bold ideas to tackle the systemic issues facing the sector and for all options to be on the table, including amalgamations.

“As we’ve seen over the past year, local government is at breaking point — often literally — so it’s great to see the need for systemic reform is being taken seriously,” says Cr Compton.

“With big reforms like Three Waters and the Resource Management Act set to radically change local government, having a concurrent process for reviewing the role, structure, and financing of local government to ensure it’s fit-for-purpose in a post-reform world is vital.

“This review means we can start having conversations with our communities and mana whenua about how we best address the challenges we’re collectively facing. We need to reimagine local democracy and I urge the review to be bold when it comes to making recommendations on what the future of local government looks like.”

One specific area where Cr Compton is urging the review to be bold is around the possibility of council amalgamations.

“With centralisation of water services in the pipeline and planning regionalisation being drawn up through the new RMA framework, council amalgamations must be on the table. We need to ensure local communities have elected representation and accountability at the point where key decisions are being made, as well as having councils that are large enough to be effective and efficient in meeting the needs of their communities.

“Likewise, over the past decade we’ve seen Auckland’s amalgamation — a process started by the Fifth Labour Government [of Helen Clark] — transform the city’s fortunes. Meanwhile in Wellington, the region has struggled in comparison with the numerous attempts at voluntary coordination across the region being plagued by an inability to deliver a coherent strategic vision, let alone tangible results.

“For example, what happens in Wellington City has a direct impact on the Kāpiti Coast, and will do even more so once Transmission Gully opens. Having a joint committee, with no powers sitting over the top of nine councils, plus Horowhenua District Council, to deal with the region’s growth is a stop gap solution. Amalgamation absolutely needs to be on the cards given the challenges facing the region and benefits we’ve seen it bring for Auckland.”

While Cr Compton called for a different type of inquiry via a Royal Commission, he’s encouraging those wanting local government reform to grab this opportunity with both hands.

“The scale of challenges facing the sector are so immense that we need to make the most of this opportunity. I encourage everyone who wants better local government and democracy in Aotearoa to get involved.”

The above represents the personal views of Cr Compton and are not necessarily those of Kāpiti Coast District Council.

The official Beehive announcement of the review is here