What Nelson might look like if there was no council. Illustration by Syahmi Ismail.

Imagine Nelson without a council

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Consider what would happen if there was no local government. Assume that one day Nelson City Council just disappears – people still exist and the infrastructure is there, but the laws, rules, systems and policies disappear. Reporter Kate Russell imagines how dire life in Nelson would be – highlighting why council is important, and why you should vote next month, for those who can make the best decisions for our city.

I wake up to the stench of something foul smelling wafting through the window. Oh, that’s right, there’s no rubbish or recycling collection anymore, so rubbish bags are piled up on the street.

Or could it be that broken wastewater pipe down the road? It’s probably a combination of both.

My daughter yells out to me, telling me there’s no water in the tap. Even if there was, I wouldn’t trust it would be clean. The toilet doesn’t flush either.

It’s time to drop the kids at school. We go to get in the car, but I remember the road is full of potholes and traffic is in chaos. We could bike, but there are cracks and weeds everywhere and no cycle lanes anymore.

Maybe we could catch the bus? Oh, that’s right, there is no public transport.

We walk, although it’s not easy. It’s been raining, and with no stormwater network anymore there’s flooding everywhere – which just adds to the mess that burst watermain down the road has made.

We’ll also have to watch out for all those unregistered dogs running rampant.

At school, I bump into a friend who used to work at the council. Like her, hundreds of other Nelsonians are unemployed.


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After school, we decide to go for a walk along the Maitai River. Afterall, my kids can’t play football anymore since there are no maintained sports fields.

There are also no libraries and no walking tracks.

We get to the Maitai, but it’s a mess. The grass and weeds are almost too thick to see the river, but from what we can make out, it’s full of rubbish with no wildlife to be seen. Our waterways are in terrible shape with no environmental monitoring.

Now my son needs to use the bathroom, but there are no public toilets. There is also no inner city carparking.

We’re finally home. It’s starting to get dark earlier now – probably from all the heavy smoke in the air. Without council, people are using their non-compliant fireplaces and burning whatever they want.

Not to mention my neighbour building a shoddy second dwelling on his front yard that blocks all my sun. You don’t need to get a building consent for these things anymore. Resource consents have also gone out the window.

This is just a small taste of what life would be like without Nelson City Council. Cemeteries, parks and reserves would be wildly overgrown, there would be no Nayland Pool or Founders Park, and either no or a limited museum.

There would be no new projects, no extra funding for community groups, no noise control and no alcohol licencing. The city would also be a pretty boring place to be with no Arts Festival, summer events, Trafalgar Centre or Saxton Stadium.

So, if you are planning on not voting, or you’re sitting on the fence about it – take a minute to think about what life would be like without council.

The one mayor and 12 councillors we vote for make the decisions on how our city is run, how it functions and how money is spent. It’s important.

Voting opens this week, with polling day on 12 October. Get out there and vote, it’s not too late to enrol – go to www.vote.co.nz