Here is my written submission to the Local Government Commission, which began hearing verbal submissions on its proposal for local government reform in the Wellington region this week:
"I think greater Wellington is too small a city to have the number of local councils we have. Within Porirua, I read of our council deliberating on usually relatively minor matters. We should concentrate democratic, coordinated and considered decision-making at a regional level – not at the area levels of the greater Wellington city. I think the proposed structure strikes an excellent balance. Its territory recognises the interconnectedness between the different areas too.
"I also believe it will be easier for greater Wellington to present a cohesive face internationally and within New Zealand with this new structure. Having taken part in the Wellington mayoral trade delegation to Shanghai in 2010, I know that you introduce yourself from New Zealand first and Wellington next. You leave it there, as most people living an overnight plane trip from New Zealand will need Wellington described to them. You don’t usually have an opportunity to talk about the local areas.
"There are though some distinct areas of difference within greater Wellington. For example, the population profile of Porirua. It seems to me, however, that this new structure will allow these differences to be represented.
"While I live in Titahi Bay, Porirua, most of my work comes from Wellington where I commute to most working days. This new structure will allow me an opportunity to contribute ideas to the wider city.
"I also like the idea to retain local economic development offices, which can have their fingers on the pulse. (I drafted three economic development strategies for the Porirua City Council in 2012.) However, the offices need to stay coordinated too across the greater city.
"I’m not so sure about the retention of a couple of the other responsibilities at a local level. I suggest decisions on both local transport and events need to be made in coordination with the greater city so that synergies are maintained.
"The structure looks a good basis to begin, however. I support the intent behind it."
Asked what I thought good local government would look like, I wrote:
"Good local government will represent the people to continue to develop a city that is collegial, creative and aspirational. Good local government will continue to support reliable green transport (including better options for cyclists), high quality entertainment and recreation, and a culturally-diverse educated population where people feel they have a role to play in the city’s future."
What do you think?
Last month, the Porirua City Council published the third economic development discussion document I had largely drafted for them. The three documents are strategies for global business, and the digital and services industries.
I was delighted to work with the council on this project, as I have lived in the wider city for 25 years in the seaside ‘villages’ of Plimmerton, Pukerua Bay, Whitby and now Titahi Bay – 20 minutes north of Wellington City.
I first met the council’s economic development manager, Chris Lipscombe, on my trip to Shanghai in 2010 with the Wellington mayoral delegation. It was great to sit around the table with him again, and his colleague Sakirin Sapeas, sip some Chinese tea and share their thinking and enthusiasm.
Each of the discussion documents needed to summarise international, New Zealand and Wellington regional trends in plain English for the city’s residents. They also had to be structured in an inviting way and propose half a dozen recommendations for the council to act on for the city.
The council didn’t have a lot of money to plough into these recommendations, although it is uniquely positioned to act as a catalyst for them. The work drew on my 20 years of experience in economic development and trade.
As well as assisting my local city, the project was an opportunity to discover some fascinating trends in the digital and services industries, and also in trade.
Did you know for example that ultra fast broadband applications could reduce missed school days in New Zealand by 25 million?
That the services industry accounted for 71 percent of New Zealand GDP in 2011?
And that there are 20 exporters in Porirua City with a turnover of over $10 million?
After a consultation phase, the documents will set out planned activities from next year and long-term goals.