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Local Government

Unified and strong message from residents and rate payers

“This meeting was the first one that to a person sitting around that table, we were all of one mind.” These were the words of Tony Fox speaking about what had happened at a very different kind of meeting on Saturday, 11 May. Tony is a former TCDC Councillor and Community Board member now serving as a volunteer on the Whitianga Residents and Ratepayers (WRRA).
 |  The Informer  | 

Let’s go back a little in time. Earlier this year, representatives of Residents and Ratepayers Associations on the Coromandel Peninsula had met to test out the viability of the associations working together on matters of district interest.

The result of this was seventeen associations agreed to support this Alliance concept.

That Alliance met with our Mayor, Len Salt and eight councillors in late March in the council chambers in Thames to discuss common concerns pertaining to ratepayers across the Peninsula. Seventeen Associations were represented. The issue in the words of Rob Boston, of Pauanui Residents and Ratepayers; “Collectively, we have concerns on matters which impact on the work we voluntarily undertake within our own communities.”

On Saturday, 11 May, a second meeting of the Alliance was held, but this time just the chairs and or leaders of the Ratepayers Associations and it was held in the Whitianga community boardroom of the Council. Ten associations were represented. Media were invited but through some misunderstanding, did not get a clear message. But never mind, the meeting was effective in terms of what Tony Fox described at the beginning of this article.

The meeting on 11 May reflected broad agreement that better consultation and communication is required between council and the residents and ratepayers’ groups.

one voice

With that the Alliance is requesting four things of the council as one voice:

1. The reintroduction of the community empowerment model covering both operational and fiscal matters – this enabling decision making at the community level by community boards. (Community boards have no teeth and have been disempowered.)

2. The council’s primary focus be on core services – roading, waste and water – not social services.

3. Council undertakes genuine and proactive community consultation underpinned by transparent communication on matters relating to local communities.

4. The development and enablement of an economic growth policy for the Coromandel Peninsula (that can be understood by the people.)

Alliance all of one mind

This is a start, a beginning of a positive journey forward. One representative said about the meeting,

“There is a high level of discontent and even suspicion in some areas of our community. Residents are looking to rate payers associations for help rather than their Community Boards.”

Another said, “Around the table, people were committed to solving the concerns and issues of their community – everyone was on the same page.”

To have seventeen associations being represented and wanting to work together; all driven by issues that are ‘wide, varied and localised’, makes this a very special Alliance.  This is not a situation that arrived with the last local government election. It is a situation that has developed over time, but not intentionally.

It is clear that the Alliance is requesting of council (TCDC) to listen more to their constituents, many hard-working volunteers who have full time jobs, and to ‘consult differently and act more transparently’ (from Alliance letter).

It is not an overnight revelation that community boards are losing their effectiveness and relevance. The pressure of reality is the council that exists now is the one being requested to change this culture.

Two notable oral presentations at the current Long Term Plan (LTP) hearings in Thames by Richard Shelford Woodcock, Chair of the Whitianga RRA and Denis Tegg of Thames, highlighted a common theme relating to big items in the LTP proposals.  For different reasons, these two men highlighted the need for more economic prudence and more preparation and detail in operational expenditure for proposals set before the people. There is no blame apportioned here, just listening differently and better communication are required.

There are many processes to work through for any decision to be made in local government, let alone action and none more than at local government level.

There are the Community Boards, district Councils (TCDC), Department of Conservation (DOC), Waikato Regional Council. Alongside that there is the Resource Management Act (RMA). But, at the centre, it is the Council with its elected councillors and their staff who must provide the channels by which local empowerment and consequent achievement can occur in shorter time periods and with less cost.

NOTE: There will be a number of communications to members of the Residents and Ratepayers Associations. The Mayor, TCDC Councillors and Community Board members will receive a letter detailing what has been summarised here.

The future warrants residents making the effort to signing up to become a member of their local Residents & Ratepayers Association.