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Through the Portal

Council Structure – another proficient way of working

There was an excellent letter in the 6th February edition of the Informer from Buddy Mikaere of Manaia. Buddy’s letter was in response to letters written along with others re follow up to an article I wrote criticising the process followed by Council when deciding to formalise the formation of Maori Wards for TCDC.
 |  Trevor Ammundsen  | 

Buddy’s letter was written well and laid out his points without resorting to the “shoot the messenger” rubbish on which many unfortunately rely. There were elements to Buddy’s letter with which I disagreed, but there was one point he made that got me thinking and is the basis of this article. I will repeat the point he made so you know to what what I am referring.

Regarding Maori Wards, Buddy wrote “What they do is address an inequality in representation and a voice that might require appropriate or specialist knowledge.

For example, for best advice we might look to a Councillor with a Farming background to speak to Council on issues involving farming.

Or, for someone with a fisheries background to inform us of marine issues in the Firth of Thames and around our coastline. So why not a Maori voice to speak to Maori issues?”

One of the problems that has evolved with our democracy is the ability for the incompetent to become part of government, be it regional or national.

You just need to look at the level of idiocy in our Parliament or the Council shambles in places like Wellington to see what I am getting at, but we are not immune in TCDC. The challenge is to get competent people in places of responsibility, and I believe Buddy has pointed the way to this quite simply.

Buddy’s point implies a move to a system of representative selection that incorporates criteria that will enable us to select a far more proficient council. The Council’s decision re Maori Wards sets us on a path to raise councillor numbers to 16, two of which will be Maori, most likely in a North and South ward. So why not split the TCDC into two wards, North and South with eight councillors in each being from specific groupings of competency such as.

• Maori

• Farming

• Rural Business

• Urban Business

• Hospitality

• Tourism

• Infrastructure

• Miscellaneous

Candidates would need to offer proof of their suitability for any council position, after all the aim is to gain competent advice from the various sectors. The result would be diverse representation by competent experienced people. Possibly a council of which we could be proud.  Community Boards could be set up with the same structure so, for example, Maori would have two full councillors with a support team of five community board members. The same depth of representation would be in place for the other groups thereby benefitting the entire region.

The risk of such a system is that the various groupings just start concentrating on what they want whereas their purpose is to work together for the community. This should not be a great risk if the council is managed well.

After all, no matter what the councillor’s backgrounds, they are still after the same things for their community – water, roads, rubbish collection etc.

This is Democracy, but perhaps not as we are used to. It could be argued that it is an extension of what we are used to moving from grouping candidates by geography to grouping by competency, relevance and ethnicity.

We could of course move the other way; do away with Wards and have individuals put themselves forward in one big list for the electorate to select. True democracy, much as New Zealand used to have 30 or 40 years ago, possibly involving a voting system where candidates are ranked by each voter. If we do this however, there would be no Maori Wards but a great chance of Maori representation with the correct voting system in place.

As things stand the government is likely to ensure there is a referendum on Maori Wards at the next election which will likely see the status quo retained. If those who want change are to get that change, they need to think about other options and commence selling them to the electorate. Somehow, I suspect that will not happen.

Thought for the day:

Education is the key to reaching aspirations, not power. Power is just a key to taking other people’s aspirations.