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Local Government

Who makes the decisions?

Last week I pondered on the process of having your voice heard within the Council’s planning process, concluding that I thought the Community Board could be doing a better job for the community.
 |  Trevor Ammundsen  | 

This was not an attack on individual Board members.  A previous article regarding Whangamata Community Board indicates that it is not just a Mercury Bay problem and personal experience indicates the problems have been there for some time. But it remains our problem.

In the previous article, I followed the Wharekaho footpath requirement, tracking it from community need to budget oblivion and it made me curious about when the requirement disappears from our view, does anyone retain a view of this and who makes decisions about the requirement?

What I mean by this is the specific footpath at Wharekaho is defined and included in the Mercury Bay Community Plan. This Community Plan becomes part of the Council Plan and a budget is provided for Footpath capital works. As there was only one footpath mentioned in the Community Plan it is understandable that we would presume the Wharekaho footpath is the major item in the budget.

Yet as there is just a single budget figure, it appears that the Wharekaho footpath requirement has gently been removed from our view.

We now just have a number, which could mean anything; and as shown in last week’s article, the number can change so it may or may not be enough for the original purpose. As time goes by, who knows what this budget now represents? Who decides on how it should be used?

In a sensible world you would think the Community Board would have a list of projects in various budget categories and would work with Council staff to ensure these are carried out in accordance with the Community Plan and Budget.

I checked the minutes of the last Community Board meeting that I could find (February 2024) and note there was a Capital Works progress presentation but many of the items were new storm recovery items, or future plans (possibly the 2031 to 2041 LTP). There seemed to be very little correlation with the original plan and our footpath in Wharekaho was not mentioned at all.

So, it may be that our footpath has been lost from elected Community Board members view.

As an example of this losing sight of things, I had an issue some time ago, that remains unresolved, which resulted in my making submissions to our Community Board. This was basically a contractual issue and my argument is that the Council should honour its agreement. I prepared documents with photos, bits circled and arrows indicating problems, and made a couple of presentations at Board meetings. I hosted Community Board members, Councillors and senior staff to view the problem and all seemed to understand. It was with much joy that I was informed the Community Board had decided to honour its agreement and had a defined timetable for action to be carried out. That was December 2018.

The deadline approached and then passed by.  You guessed it; nothing happened.

I followed up, had a couple of meetings with our then District Manager where he very nicely told me he wasn’t prepared to proceed yet as he wanted to hear from other (unnamed) people. By the time I finished a second meeting with him, I had the strong impression that it would be a cold day in hell before he would do any work on my issue, despite the Community Board’s decision. Maybe this is unfair, but this is the impression I gained and the lack of action would indicate I am correct. Recent conversations with Community Board members indicate they know nothing at all about this issue. It has sunk from view.

The title of this article asks who makes the decision, meaning who decides on proceeding with budgeted or contracted projects.

The only party that seems to retain a view of what is required and has the ability to get it done is council staff so it would appear that once an issue sinks from Community Board view, and possibly before this, the local Manager is where ratepayers must go if they wish to plead for progress.

So maybe the good people of Wharekaho should approach our local Don respectfully, offering gifts and politely request his assistance with their matter. Seems to work in Sicily.