The "10 reasons why" - assessed

A group of organisations (lead by the Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce) and people are backing the proposed amalgamation and have issued a leaflet with a list of "One Council: 10 reasons why".

Here is our take on those ten reasons.

Reason     Wishful
Thinking
Evidence
Based
Could it be achieved without amalgamation? Comment

1. Stronger Wairarapa voice

Yes

No

Yes

Unquantifiable wish.
Three mayors jointly saying the same thing much more powerful than one.
When six voices are better than one

2. One strategy for economic growth

?

?

Yes

South Wairarapa fastest growing district already.
Bigger councils don't necessarily create better economic performance.
If a common strategy is useful it could be done without amalgamation.

3. Less red tape

Yes

No

Yes

Less red tape is achievable by councils standardising approaches where possible.

There will be different red tape.
Current informal relationships and processes will go to a standardised far less flexible rulebook.

4. Efficient planning and decision-making

Yes

No

Yes

There is no evidence that bigger councils are more efficient or productive.

5. Wairarapa is governed here, not from Wellington

?

?

?

Red herring - why is this even on the list?

6. Stronger representation

Yes

No

?

Orwellian doublespeak - stronger representation by reduced representation?
Adds more distance from ratepayer to councillor, includes unelected representatives.

7. More efficient delivery of infrastructure

Yes

No

Yes

Again, no evidence that bigger councils are more efficient at delivering infrastructure.

8. Stronger staffing base

Yes

No

Yes

Again, no evidence that bigger councils have better expertise.
Adding new staff contradicts the cost savings benefit.
Bringing the staff together will cost $8m over 10 years.

Expertise could be shared between councils by each council becoming "centres of excellence" in different areas.

9. Stronger financial base

Yes

No

No

The largest council of the three has significant debt. Council revenue doesn't provide surpluses so the only possibility is from cost savings that are "modest" at best and likely unattainable.

10. Cost savings

Yes No Yes Transition costs are underestimated.
Savings are overestimated - staff cuts impracticable.
Shared services and joint contracts have already produced $1m savings at minimal cost.

 

In summary

  • The vast majority of these "benefits" could be achieved without amalgamation but with the councils taking Shared Services and joint resourcing more seriously.
    Why hasn't this happened? With the amalgamation agenda on the table it has been in the interests of some to demonstrate that the Shared Services model doesn't work.
  • One red herring - amalgamation or not we are governed locally and the regional council services remain. This is not a reason to amalgamate.
  • A number of the benefits are based on the "bigger is better" philosophy and that is not supported by case studies or data.
  • Where are the case studies and examples that show these points are proven and actually get realised?
  • The cost savings reason is built on such flimsy estimates that it is at high risk of never being achieved.

The 10 reasons to support the proposed amalgamation look pretty weak overall.

There isn't a single point of compelling value there.

If these are the best reasons, then it's not a supportable proposition. 

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