Statement of Margaret Stevenson-Wright (Waikanae Community Board) to the Agenda Item 8.1 of the Council Meeting for 26 August 2021
I speak in support of the retention of all Community Boards.
The Representation Review preferred option put forward is based on a set of principles, formulated by external advice and engagement with 0.3 of 1% of Kapiti electors.
Some principles are strong, others are weak.
The geographic community distinction is strong with conformity to catchments and Statistics NZ meshblocks being identified as such in Schedule 3 of the LGA 2002. The Waikanae community identifies strongly with the river, from the beach to the peak of Kapakapanui. A parallel applies to Otaki from the beach to the Tararuas.
Many of the other principles are weak with debatable perceptions and not forceful argument for removal of Community Boards.
A professional development workshop delivered (to elected members) by Steve McDowell in October 2019 spoke to the importance of community intelligence as a key tool for elected members. He described community intelligence as the ability of an elected member to understand their community’s interests, needs, expectations, issues in contention and wishes, and apply that knowledge to decision making processes.
Graeme Trask (an articulate Kapiti resident) has reinforced these points within his letter to Councillor Prvanov and his follow up comments on Waikanae Neighbourly.
In Dr Mike Reid’s (LGNZ) words ‘community boards are one of the ways in which Councils keep in touch with the flax roots, a role that has increased in importance as local authorities have become larger and communities more diverse.’
‘With many councils undertaking representation reviews at the moment the future of community boards is becoming more and more topical, with boards in many districts and cities having to make the case for their continued existence. Indeed, some councils are even suggesting that impending local reform will make community boards irrelevant. Yet quite the opposite is true. We don’t need less local democracy; we actually need a lot more.’
Dr Reid’s view holds true within the context of Kapiti and Council predicted growth.
The roles of elected members of Community Boards, councillors, and appointed staff are not in competition but are complementary.
Members of all Community Boards contribute to the rigor of decision making by councillors and appointed staff and in doing so they add rigor to the decision-making process. Community Boards are a key part of the much needed ‘checks and balances’ within the system of Local Government.
Community intelligence can be achieved through organised consultation, or as I have found it often finds you through contact made by members of the Community.
Multiple examples come to mind that have been the catalyst for discussion with appointed staff where prompt resolution followed. Not all issues raised can be readily resolved and neither are all issues raised through face-to-face interaction.
Suggestion has been made that current Community Boards are not adding to effective representation of communities of interest.
In my view, each of the towns on the Kapiti Coast has unique characteristics, needs and potential issues. The proposed reduction in Community Boards would effectively pit towns against each other rather than see the individual and collective characteristics of these towns fulfil the aims of Council’s active destination marketing.
The relationship between councillors, appointed staff and Community Board members is clearly important in the injection of community interest into discussion around efficiency and effectiveness objectives.
In summary I speak for the retention of all Community Boards and I urge all boards to take the advice of Mayor Gurunathan in terms of how localism can be further enhanced through the identification of further delegations that Community Boards can and should achieve.
I urge all communities to provide a strong voice for the retention of all community boards.
As to where from here:
- Public Submissions: 1 September – 4 October
- Public Submissions: Hearing 19 October
- Public Update: 26 October
- Final Proposal for Approval – Council Meeting: 11 November
- One month for Appeals/Objections (to the Local Government Commission)