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Local Government

A year as a Community Board member

These are not the views of Councillors, Community Board members or TCDC staff but my own views as a Community Board member reflecting on the first year as an elected representative.
 |  Neil Evans  |  ,

From the outset, I had anticipated that after the election I would be able to have some influence (no matter how small) in what was happening or about to happen in the wonderful community of Whangamatā.

As a lawyer, I was aware of the role as set out in The Local Government Act which is set out below.

The role of a community board is to – (the territorial authority referred to is Thames Coromandel District Council.

(a)  represent, and act as an advocate for, the interests of its community; and

(b)  consider and report on all matters referred to it by the territorial authority, or any matter of interest or concern to the community board; and

(c) maintain an overview of services provided by the territorial authority within the community; and

(d)  prepare an annual submission to the territorial authority for expenditure within the community; and

(e)  communicate with community organisations and special interest groups within the community; and

(f) undertake any other responsibilities that are delegated to it by the territorial authority.

After one year, I believe that the role of a Community Board member has minimal influence.

Yes, I can act and advocate for the interests of the community but there is no corresponding obligation to put into any effect the matters we might represent and advocate for.

Yes, we can consider and report but to what purpose if these are not given any due respect?

I have no idea what maintaining an overview of services provided within the community means.

To my knowledge, we have not prepared an annual submission to the Council for expenditure within the community. The proviso may have been we were simply told what we have to spend on allocating to community groups this year as we certainly had no say, or if we did, it was not listened to.

Yes, we have to some degree communicated back to community organisations and special interest groups. Usually that entailed, ‘sorry, we have no money’ or ‘we have no idea’.

I think there is an expectation in the community that we have some say and influence, as a Board, of what happens in Whangamatā. In my view, this is a perception that is quite clearly mistaken. One simple project (at minimal cost) that has been put forward will undoubtedly not happen before Christmas despite being raised at the beginning of the year. What sort of influence is that? (The project did not happen before Christmas).

My perception is that rather than an attitude of ‘how can we make this happen’, a default position seems to be ‘how can we prevent this from happening and do nothing’.

Having seen how private business works, I am appalled at the waste of money and the use of scarce resources in the public sector. Outside consultants play a big part in cost escalation. This has a direct influence on rate rises.

I don’t know the answer, but I believe that Community Boards are a waste of money and are set up to ‘tick the box’ of community involvement and ‘democracy’ The legislation is weak and consequently community boards are weak. With regret, I cannot name one achievement this year which has been the direct result of lobbying or influence from the Community Board.

I admit this is all rather negative, but it would be interesting to hear the experiences of previous Board members and whether they can identify. On a positive note, your best bet is to lobby Councillors or the Mayor and not the Community Board.

However, I am not positive Councillors, or the mayor can help, as they are only three votes in a Council of eleven.

NOTE: the recent local elections were held on 8 October, 2022.

There are five community Boards working in the Peninsula.

Coromandel, Whitianga, Thames ‘Tairua – Pauanui, Whangamata. There are four elected members on each Board.    Then there are ten councillors – including the mayor elected to be the ‘territorial authority’ to which the Community Boards relate and to whom they advocate for their constituents.  The whole system is set up to provide the necessary services for all ratepayers and residents and even visitors. So these local authorities are there to serve the people.

 We need them but perhaps there is another culture to create and a different way of thinking and working The Informer publishes this because it is a heart felt statement.  Neil believes change c is needed and it is not do with the qualifications of the people. It is about the culture and the structure. Response is invited.