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New Community Board prepares for three busy years

October 22nd, 2010
By David Armstrong

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The new Motueka Community Board was sworn in today, with re-elected chairman David Ogilvie warning that the next three years will impose a very heavy workload around several key issues that will impact significantly on Motueka development well into the future.

Mark Chapman, Paul Hawkes, David Ogilvie and Cliff Satherley swore an oath before Tasman District Council chief executive Paul Wylie, then unanimously elected David Ogilvie to continue as board chairman and the other carry-over member Paul Hawkes as deputy chair.

Paul Wylie reminded the members of their obligation to represent and advance the interests of the whole ward, and not just special interests. He urged the board to work alongside TDC as together they implement council's 10-year plan, which will be up for review during this term of office. He asked that once decisions had been arrived at by council following collaborative work, the board would not re-litigate issues. And he reminded members of the various New Zealand laws which they must have regard to, in particular around conflicts of interest and abuse of privilege.

David Ogilvie thanked Paul for his words, which he found "very refreshing, and encouraging to hear again". He said there were lots of issues, and therefore a heavy workload, ahead. "It will be important for the board and council to work as a team."

Formalities over, Cliff put forward suggestions that as soon as the TDC Engineering committee is selected, board members should meet with that committee to come up to speed on some of the key issues affecting Motueka, mainly at the political level rather than the technical level. These issues include water, transport (High Street and the bypass), and the Motueka West Strategy.

It was noted that the timing for talks on the transport issue in particular was good, given that council had "received" but not yet "adopted" the 2010 Transportation Plan. David said he would also like to talk with the relevant council officers on mediation over the long-running dispute over water allocation and reticulation.

Cliff Satherley also said he would like to have the three Motueka councillors - Eileen Wilkins, Barry Dowler and Jack Inglis - around the table at community board meeting so they could also be involved in local policy debates.

The meeting was then informed that the council will vote within a few weeks on the policy of allowing the councillors to be added to the community board as full voting members, which if adopted will change the mix and perhaps even the focus of the board.

David Ogilvie told Motueka Online that the local body rules allow that to happen if the parties agree, subject to certain conditions, the most stringent being that if a councillor has already voted on an issue at a board meeting they cannot then vote on the same issue at council level as they are considered to have a pre-determined view.

The ability to make councillors also members of the community board was used in the 2004-2007 term but for the term just concluded.

The Motueka Community Board for 2010-2013: Paul Hawkes (deputy chairman),
Cliff Satherley, David Ogilvie (chairman) and Mark Chapman.

Comment by John from West Bank Road:
[Posted 24 October 2010]

I have often wondered why we have a community board. We already have a council which includes representatives from our area, and these councillors are supposed to represent us at the council meetings and in other council affairs.

If that is the case, then why do we have/need another elected body doing what I would have thought was the same thing our council members are elected to do? I don't doubt the sincerity, passion, interest, or talents of members of either body, I just wonder what it is they are all doing (or supposed to be doing) and why there seems to be a duplication of effort as a result?

Comment by David Ogilvie:
[Posted 25 October 2010]

Thanks for the opportunty to respond. In simple terms the Councillors' role is to represent the Tasman District, & although Councillors are elected from "local areas" (Wards) their responsibilty is not to that Ward but to the District. They are required to be watchful re any "conflict of interest" or pre-determined attitude when Ward issues arise at Council meetings. The Councillors Declaration is to act faithfully & impartially in the best interests of the Tasman District.

In contrast, the Community Board's role is to "act & advocate for the interests of the Community." Also, we are to overview the services provided by the District Council within the Community, & prepare annually a detailed submission to the Council for expenditure in the Community.

Involved in these activities is a requirement to be in touch with various clubs, associations, & organisations & any special interest groups (social, economic, recreational, environmental).

The Council may delegate tasks for the Board to implement, to lighten its "load" & to get surveyed opinion on particular issues.

Clearly, it is a mixed role of support, supervision & communication between the Board & the Council as the Board endeavours to relay the community's wishes to the Council. Naturally, this will at times involve debate & argument, but each party needs to recognise the role, worth & value of the other.

Recently, the Board has adopted positions regarding Water Allocation, Riwaka-Kaiteriteri Road, Motueka Central & West Structure Planning as major matters & have pressed the Council on Stormwater, Footpathing, Parks & Reserves concerns. Many of these can be relatively minor (although important to a local resident) & the Board can deal with the matter effectively.

The Motueka Ward has a population of 14,000 (Census night 2006) which is one-third of the Tasman District. The Board members can take a lot of the weight off Councillors in dealing with the Ward's particular issues. Besides, Board members & the Board meetings are more readily accessible than are the Councillors & council meetings which are mostly held in Richmond.

I hope this answers your correspondent. He is welcome to contact me (03-528-9883) or to attend a Board meeting 9th Nov 4pm at the Motueka Council office-meeting room, & check the Public Forum & Meeting Agenda. Motueka Online carries details of some of our proceedings & that is a guide to the role that the Board plays.

Comment by David Armstrong:
[Posted 29 October 2010]

Thanks David for explaining the rules around this matter. However this, and other material I read from the TDC, have left me a little concerned and taken aback.

If our three ward councillors cannot vote in favour of Motueka unless other councillors agree with them (ie, the decision is one of the council as a whole), and if the community board has no powers of decision making or real budget of its own, then how can this political process actually get anything done specially for Motueka that the rest of the district doesn't like?

For example, if the council as a whole (or a majority) believes Motueka River water should be taken for use by the whole district, then our three councillors are obliged to vote in the same way, according to the rules set out above. They simply cannot legally go against that and vote for what they see as best for Motueka. And the Community Board can advocate, recommend, haggle, advise as much as they want, they actually have no say in any voting.

Easier example 2: The residents and community board want a particular footpath or park developed further. They can advise council of local wishes but can be (and it seems usually are) ignored as council engineers say they have a better scheme for using budgeted money. And our three councillors cannot vote against that.

In the council newsletter regarding amalgamation that was delivered yesterday, council told us, quote: "Representation is at the very heart of Local Government - local people having the ability to influence the future of the area they live in". And: "Tasman District has 13 Councillors, one Mayor and two Community Boards representing five wards and distinct communities of interest".

This second statement contradicts the rules that David has explained: the rules say the councillors are elected by the wards and communities of interest, but do not represent them. They cannot even "influence the future of the area they live in" because they're not allowed to vote specifically for that area.

Also, if community boards are delegated no decision making, no executive tasks and no proper budget, how can they represent their ward (any more than arguing for it in a non-voting capacity)? That's something I know David and his previous board were very strongly critical of.

I think there's a big problem in logic and in morality here. It's not logical to call "our" councillors "our representatives", and it's not right that therefore we have no-one in a decision-making capacity looking out for Motueka.

Comment by John from West Bank Road:
[Posted 29 October 2010]

I am more confused than ever (in respect of Council and Community Board matters). I have read recently that the TDC was opposed to the concept of Community Boards, and although I am not familiar with the history of Community Boards, it seems odd that the TDC now has made these appointments. (Attack from within, perhaps?)

An additional confusing point is the legal requirement for TDC Councillors to act in the interests of the entire District (Paul Wylie, the CEO of TDC recently reiterated this in his welcome speech to the 'new' councillor Martine Bouillir). However, I fail to understand how the three Motueka Councillors can act in a responsible way as members of the Community Board (which is established for the [sole?] purpose of looking after the interests of the Motueka area), if they are allowed to take on a role which would conflict the the District-wide responsibilities they have.

Recently, one of the justifications for Community Boards was "councillors are too busy" -- so how does appointing councillors to the Community Board make councillors any less busy?

What is really going on here? I know that local councils are often the 'big fish in little ponds' type of power and control scenario, but it is (and will continue to be) the residents and ratepayers of the District who will pay for all these petty political shenanigans.

It seems to me like the best thing that could happen to TDC might very well be for it to be amalgamated with another council - that would break up the established power structure of the CEOs of two councils (and their respective power pyramids) and give the elected officials a chance to regain control over what the council staff are doing?

Comment by David Ogilvie:
[Posted 31 October 2010]

David, the paradox you highlight is (I believe) real, particularly when you add the comment from the "Amalgamation" brochure. (Although the Brochure is more a public relations exercise than a legal document.) Ideally, the 3 Motueka councillors could speak, but not vote, at the Community Board meeting; alternatively, all Councillors should refrain from voting on issues affecting their own Ward. But even speaking to an issue could be regarded as a "pre-determined" stance.

In previous terms, i.e. pre-2007, any conflict has been managed simply by noting the Coucillor's representative role, and in fact expecting a Councillor to actively promote his/her Ward. It has never been a concern in previous Council/Board relationships but I can visualise it becoming one if a Councillor raised it as a "point of order" during a debate.

Comment by David Armstrong:
[Posted 31 October 2010]

Two more comments and a question and I'll shut up for a bit. First, at the candidates meetings and on much of the candidates' advertising material before the election, all those going for ward councillor positions were saying how they were "committed to Motueka" and would "represent Motueka" (or variations thereof). Were these promises in fact that could never be legally fulfilled, and therefore breaking advertising laws?

Second, again considering last week's newsletter from TDC on amalgamation, of the two major sections that made up Issue 2, one was on how the region's "communities of interest" would be represented under an amalgamated council (with Nelson) as against the status quo. Given that ward councillors are not allowed to vote in the interests of their areas, it matters not one jot whether we have two or three councilloors from Motueka, nor how many councillors are from Nelson or Richmond. If none of them are supposed to advocate for their area, we need have no interest in how many councillors there are and what proportion come from Motueka. And therefore the council's otherwise well presented newsletter is largely a waste of time and money.

This seems a farce, in logic at least. So I ask a simple question of our Mayor and/or the CEO of Tasman Council Paul Wylie: Is the rule that ward councillors cannot vote in favour of or representing their ward a New Zealand law? Or is it a rule that's applied only to councils/districts that choose to adopt it?

Comment by Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne:
[Posted 2 November 2010]

Councillors have as David Ogilvie correctly pointed out sworn that they will act in the best interests of the whole district. Community Boards have sworn that they will advocate for their, in this case Motueka, community.

Councillors are entitled to vote at both Community Board and Council meetings. Council has agreed that for this term of Council the Councillors from Golden Bay and Motueka will be members of their Community Board. However as Councillors and Mayor we have to be careful that we do not debate or vote when we have a conflict of interest. This is usually as a result of a pecuniary interest or a stated advocacy position that we may have, which would cause a real or perceived view which would lead us not to approach an issue with an open mind.

With respect to membership and voting at Community Board meetings, Councillors are allowed to vote unless there is a conflict of interest. This could arise if the matter being discussed is intended to be sent to Council for consideration, debate and decision. In this instance, Councillors would be encouraged to declare the potential conflict, stand back from the debate and then they are entitled to take full part in debate and decision making when the issue comes to Council.

Councillors are encouraged to commit to and advocate for their local ward, in this case Motueka, when they are at a Council meeting. It is very helpful to have their local perspective. However when making decisions we (Mayor and Councillors) are all expected to vote in the best interests of the district at large. Community Board members are expected to advocate for their community, in this case Motueka. However Community Board members often take into account the best interest of the district as well.

The whole purpose of Community Boards, Community Councils and Residents Associations is that this enables local representation. It is absolutely critical to have those that look at the part of the district and issues that relate to them and then for the Council to make decisions for the whole district.

{Motueka Online asked Mayor Kempthorne this question: Is the rule that ward councillors cannot vote in favour of or representing their ward a New Zealand law? Or is it a rule that's applied only to councils/districts that choose to adopt it? Here is his answer:

I think that the way the law applies is in the conflict of interest. This is a NZ-wide law and has been clarified recently by the Office of the Auditor General with new guidance in a 63-page document that has been prepared as of October 2010. The onus is on the elected representative to not be in a position of conflict of interest and it is a serious matter. We however try to take a pragmatic view and not be overly cautious to the extent of paralysing ourselves. This also applies to companies and a wide range of organisations.

Comment by David Ogilvie:
[Posted 4 November 2010]

The Mayor's response is little different from mine. I always find it interesting however that the various community associations, community councils and residents groups are regarded on a similar level, thus disregarding the Community Board's statutory role and formal processes (eg Code of Conduct, Standing Orders etc.)

I'm not disputing the roles of the many other groupings in the District. I know their value and as a Board member attend many of these regularly - Grey Power, Keep Motueka Beautiful, Our Town, Tasman Bays Promotions, Motueka Museum, Marahau Residents Assn etc - and groups like Tasman Community Assn, Dovedale, Mapua, etc provide the same service to their members/community.

It will be interesting to note how the Councillors act at the Board. Personally I don't envisage any issues arising at the Community Board, but the "conflict of interest" and "pre-determined view" concept might be raised as a "point of order" by a non-Board Councillor at a Council meeting. The CEO's and Mayor's response to that happening will set the standard.

Comment by Malcolm Garrett:
[Posted 4 December 2010]

I retired to Motueka from Western Southland and was for a time a Community Board member for Tuatapere District CB. This was one of several CB's in a large area with many communities of interest, including some quite large settlements such as Te Anau. As a local CB we had our own budget allocation, own responsibilities for some local amenities, Hall, water supply [sewerage now too, i hear] and had a SDC officer attend our meetings regularly, coming from his home in invercargill 80km away. We also had our local Ward Councillor attend.

The wrangles that have been so distressing to me since coming here stem from the unwillingness of the TDC, both officers and Councillors it seems, to acknowledge that local CB's have any place in administering matters pertaining to their own area. The outspoken Joe Bell from Golden Bay seemed to epitomize the frustration that perfectly intelligent representatives chosen by the local population find when trying to secure some responsible say in their own affairs without being ludicrously charged mileage and time by visiting officers.

The TDC needs more local CB's, not fewer, and they need to have real powers transferred to them to make their meetings meaningful and the Board members feel valued. Having TDC councillors perched over them like watchdogs, it seems, rather than as friendly local residents ready to help with problems, is another insult to those worthy board members who have allowed their names to go forward. This last statement is not intended as a criticism of our Ward reps who are all fine folk.

Changes are needed, and sooner rather than later, and if that means amalgamation, and resulting diluting of centralized powers, then go for it, folks! It works in Southland, why not here?? Mayor Richard could benefit from a long talk with Frana Cardno, the wonderful SDC Mayor.

Comment by Joe Bell:
[Posted 28 December 2010]

I served on Golden Bay Community Board 1995-2010, the last two terms as Chair. I am a strong supporter of grass roots, bottom-up, governance through empowered Community Boards. There are a lot of positive models available.

I always held onto the thought that "bad things happen when good people turn a blind eye". The main battle has been with TDC management ('the corporation') who see themselves as the 'real council'. The mayor and many of our councillors have become 'sales people' for the corporation. It shouldn't be like that.

Here is a description of the Otorohanga model, which records how things are supposed to work. The Otorohanga community has also had remarkable success in seeking training and employment opportunities for its young people.

Otorohanga Model: There IS a better way

This model has residents and ratepayers as employers at the top of the pyramid. Ratepayers employ the elected representatives who are responsible for employing the CEO who is responsible for employing the staff. This is how local governance is supposed to work:
  -  Residents and Ratepayers
  -  Elected Representatives: Mayor, Councillors, Community Boards (no distinction)
  -  Council CEO
  -  Council Staff

Present Tasman District Model:

We will all have our own ideas about this model. Based on observation, this version has the CEO at the top of the pyramid backed by some staff, councillors and mayor. Residents, ratepayers and community boards are down at the bottom:
  -  Council CEO
  -  Some Council staff
  -  Some Councillors
  -  Mayor
  -  Rest of Councillors
  -  Rest of Council staff
  -  Ratepayers and Community Boards

It shouldn't be like this and we need to elect a Mayor and Councillors who are able to turn this around.

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