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The Government’s decision to centralise the Regional Commissioner for Social Development for Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast in Wellington is a blow to our region and a broken promise from the Labour, New Zealand First and Green Parties, says Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith.

“The Government decision not to replace the outgoing Regional Commissioner but instead add the job to the current Wellington Regional Commissioner is a slap in the face for our region. The idea that a Wellington based commissioner can be on top of the important social and development issues across our diverse regions is naïve and to the detriment of our region.

Janine Dowding, the current Regional Commissioner, has just been appointed the new Chief Executive of the Tasman District Council. The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has announced that from this week the new Regional Commissioner will be Louise Waaka, the current Wellington Commissioner, who will now cover the existing Wellington area as well as Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast.

“Janine Dowding has played a critical role as Regional Commissioner over the past decade in supporting our regions social development, including seeing unemployment drop to a low of two per cent, playing a key role in supporting former refugees into horticultural employment and helping address issues like domestic violence.  It is insulting for Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast to now be treated as an adjunct to Wellington.”

The Ministry of Social Development is the largest government agency, spending over $400 million a year in benefit support, assisting access to employment and dozens of social services. The loss of a locally based Regional Commissioner will undermine the co-ordination of social services and result in a less responsive service for our region

“This Wellington centralisation of our Regional Commissioner for Social Development makes a mockery of the Labour, New Zealand First and Green parties coalition agreement of a “commitment to relocate government functions in the regions” as it has the Government doing the opposite.

“My concern is shared by other Mayors, and MPs across the affected regions. I have asked questions in Parliament and have written jointly with Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith and National’s West Coast-Tasman based List MP Maureen Pugh to the Minister of Social Development. We need to fight this decision or we will see the government withdrawing more services from our region. Our objective is to see Ms Dowding position replaced with a full time, locally based Regional Commissioner.”

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