from Margaret Stevenson-Wright & John Vickerman

We are opposed to the proposal for 2022

We do not believe the proposal will better represent us or our community. We regard the proposal as an attempt to diminish local democracy and not enhance it.

We participated in the initial public consultation around six months ago. This was an evening meeting with strict time constraints that gave little time to consider the questions adequately. The evening included ranking of statements on cards. One key issue was that the statements on quite a few cards were not mutually exclusive. It became a merry‐go‐round where individuals of a small group of the public present kept moving the cards around. We were apprehensive of the outcome but believed that an earlier period of public consultation would occur to validate some of the statements made before the process moved to higher level considerations. This failed to occur, and we now find at this late public consultation stage, that great weight has been put on some of these “perceptions” which are then further elevated to “principles”. The impression given is one of a foundation built with rigorous scientific method, ultimately arriving at the preferred option presented today. We believe this is misleading, that some statements relied on are unverified, and the consequences as they stand are not warranted. More detailed investigation and analysis into the “perceptions” should have been made earlier, with public consultation.

The “perceptions” have been used to undermine the traditional strength of communities relating to geographic boundaries. In the council briefing documents, geographic significance is undermined by reference to small scale communities of interest not aligning with geographic boundaries. This issue is necessarily large scale as no sole community of interest is ever likely to align with 8,000 – 12,000 people per councillor. In Waikanae there are distinct communities of interest, but these also identify strongly with a collective geographic Waikanae identity – from the Beach, along roads aligned by the river, beneath the shadow of Te Au, and up the valley to Kapakapanui. Such a Waikanae collective community of interest is widely recognised, in contrast to the featureless sprawl identity of Paraparaumu.

In the Small Ward option in the Council briefing presentation of 29 June 2021, the combination of the blue and pink areas identifies the Waikanae collective geographic identity very well. With two councillors for this combined area the deviation rules are well complied with. The option given was linked with no community boards. In the absence of an explanation this is puzzling given that some of the potential issues given would be mitigated by the presence of a Waikanae Community Board of suitable calibre.

Within the mixed model it is not explained why the number of Ward Councillors has to be matched by an equal number of District Wide Councillors. With Wards, the population per councillor is significant for equality of representation, but why do District Wide Councillors have to have the same population base per Councillor when their main task is focussed on district wide issues? Any number of District Wide Councillors will have an equal population base (the total population divided by the number of District Wide Councillors). Their district wide responsibilities will be different from Ward Councillor responsibilities, plus it does not follow that workload and representation of each will be or need to be the same.

In the Local Electoral Act 2001, section 19V(2) says that the population of each ward divided by the number of members to be elected is to be no more than 10% greater or smaller than the population of the district. The last part of the subsection then clarifies the applicability of the 10% rule to “other than members elected by the electors of a territorial authority as a whole, if any, and the mayor, if any”. Hence District Wide Councillors are not subject to the 10% rule.

There is no indication in the briefing papers that a mixed model based on the Small Ward option of 7 ward councillors and 3 district wide councillors was even considered. Yet it would fully meet the 10% rule and align the blue and pink areas (Briefing 29 June 2021) — the Waikanae collective geographic identity — very well.

The number of District Wide Councillors should be independent of the number of Ward Councillors. If District Wide Councillors are overworked, then the number should be increased to match the workload. It is appreciated that the number of councillors will affect the remuneration of councillors but the effort for pay is what it is and councillors have the choice to stand or not. Experience demonstrates that payment does not equal performance.

The presentations convey a perception that Ward Councillors will be parochial and not do what is best for Kapiti as a whole. While examples of this might be found, we believe it is more the exception than the rule. Most Ward Councillors do recognise all wards have differing concerns and needs and that collaboration works best for all.

One significant aspect of the proposal is the dissolution of Community Boards. In the briefing of 29 June dissolution of 3/5 Community Boards was proposed leaving Otaki and Paekakariki boards. No good reason had been given as to why Otaki and Paekakariki were communities of interest, yet Waikanae was not. In the Councillor briefings the benefits and alternatives to community boards are somewhat speculative and ill thought out. The briefings essentially portray them as a barrier to representation. Of great concern is that all briefing papers are silent on one very important role of a community board.

As set out in sections 51 and 52 of the Local Government Act 2002, a community board is not a local authority, and it is not a committee of the territorial authority. One of the roles of a community board is to maintain an overview of services provided by the territorial authority within the community (S52(c)) and consider and report on …any matter of interest or concern to the community board. (S52(b)).

The community board has a role independent of council that councillors do not have. If council does something poorly, then the community board has the legal authority to say so. This role has frequently been confused by Council viewing it as criticism of staff and contrary to Standing Orders of elected members. The Standing Orders have to be subservient to the Local Government Act. If conflict exists it is interpretation of the Standing Orders that are the problem.

Council decision making has the Ombudsman as a check or balance but long delays in the practical working of this gives a carte blanche to a narcissist Chief Executive. Community Boards have a lesser but more direct role as a check on the rigor of Council decision making. The disestablishment of a Community Board simply elevates the power and control of a Chief Executive.

The Chief Executive has the legal duty to fund and provide the administrative services a Community Board needs. In this there is a duty to provide a meeting agenda, but the Chief Executive does not have the legal authority to refuse to put an item on the agenda that is of concern to the Board. An example being simply because he thinks it is not an appropriate forum to discuss something council has done poorly.

The Chair of a community board has an important role – under Remuneration Authority rules the Chair remuneration (paltry as it is) gets double that of other members – the expectation being that the Chair will be doing far more than the other members. In most cases the Chairs and the boards that they are art of do well and provide significant democratic input for little cost. The value of this and the check on council is something generally poorly understood. There may be some evidence that they have been seen as an unhelpful barrier to representation and participation, but it is not known whether the people who said this were aware of the role of the Community Board as defined by statute.

This review so far has not portrayed the role of community boards fairly. The decision to dissolve all Community Boards apparently occurred in the councillor briefing of 29 June 2021. There is a public perception that in doing so, councillors have acted with bias, self‐interest, predetermination and potential conflict of interest.

A review which dissolves all Community Boards and increases the power and control of a Chief Executive does not enhance local democracy. The new, creative, and contemporary ways to help our communities engage more directly with Council have been inadequately explained and fail to convince. If current councillors already express concerns about workload, how is removal of community boards which have contributed a great deal for little cost, going to enhance engagement with the community?

We are opposed to the proposal that smacks of predetermination and do not accept that the rushed ill evidenced review work done justifies the consequences proposed.

We request that this submission is placed in the public domain.
Margaret Stevenson‐Wright
John Vickerman

Margaret Stevenson-Wright was a member of the Waikanae Community Board until she quit on 31 August 2021, see the post at the time. —Eds