Wards, councillors and community boards - its not over yet
Wards, councillors and community boards
IT’S NOT OVER YET !!!
The Council's not-so-final decision.
In a full page piece in the Bay of Plenty Times, the council has given public notice of its Final Proposal (FP) for what the unelected commissioners want to be the city's representation system to be until 2028. But, what the council does not make clear in this huge passage of tightly packed words is that the final decision about what Tauranga's system of wards, councillors and boards will look like from next year onwards will be made by the Local Government Commission (LGC), not the council. The TCC commissioners’ decision will not be the final one made on this subject.
Every resident has the right to appeal or object to the LGC against the council's FP. The appeal or objection may be against the whole of the FP or only parts of it. The LGC will consider all appeals and objections and make its own determination about what the system should be. There's more about this further on in this memorandum.
What the council wants.
Getting back to the FP; the council has decided to stick with its own Initial Proposal (IP) of 8 general wards, each with 1 councillor, a Maori ward (which has already been established and cannot be objected against) and a mayor. Each of the general ward councillors will represent appeoximately17,000 residents. Community boards will not be established.
If this system becomes effective residents will be able to vote for & have access to no more than1 out of the 9 councillors - their ward councillor. Too bad if your ward councillor turns out to be a dunce or a council stooge!
This is not a democratic system! It disenfranchises voters. It waters down to the lowest level the right of residents to choose which people will represent them as councillors.
A possible consequence if the council's system comes into effect could be that residents lose interest in in taking part in such weak elections. Voter participation could fall to lower levels than we have ever had before. Democracy is about as many of the people affected by government taking part in its processes That's why a good voter turn-out is important.
Under the current system (suspended when the commissioners were appointed) there are 3 general wards, each with 2 councillors, 4 at-large (city-wide) councillors and a mayor. Residents could vote for and had access to 6 councillors.
Many submissions were made to the council's Initial Proposal and 14 of the submitters who opposed it made oral presentations to the commissioners. What most of the submitters saw as the major flaw in the IP was the fact that there were too many wards, that residents could vote for and have access to only 1 out of the 10 councillors, and that it did not include at-large councillors. Various alternatives were presented by the submitters and all of them gave voters greater powers. Some gave voters the right to vote for and have access to up to as many as 11 councillors. The commissioners rejected all of these submissions.
The council has also decided that community boards should not be established in any part of Tauranga. Here are a few things you should know about community boards: they are not another level of council bureaucracy- boards are community organisations not council organisations, running costs are low - if boards had been in place before now they could have saved Tauranga ratepayers a fortune by preventing some of the council project disasters, boards are better placed than councils to know how to handle local climate change challenges - something that we are going to have to deal with sooner rather than later, boards provide a place and opportunity for locals to have their say openly in surroundings in which they feel comfortable, board members are required by statute to advocate on for local needs and preferences - councillors have no such obligation.
Your LAST chance to have a say.
The council has announced the that the consultation period on the FP will run from the 12th of November until the 13th of December. This is your chance, your last chance, to have your say about how you want to be represented on council. You won't get another chance until 2028.
These are things you need to know:
1. Opposing the council's proposed system is not a waste of time! The power to make a final determination as to whether or not the Final Proposal will come into effect has now passed out of the council's hands. That power now rests with the Local Government Commission (LGC), which is not there to simply rubber stamp the staff and council's decision. The LGC considers residents' views as well as the council's views and forms its own opinion.
There have been many recent cases of the LGC stepping in to make significant changes to councils' FPs. In 2019 the LGC determined that the Hutt City Council would not consist of 12 ward councillors, which is what the council wanted. Instead it allowed 6 wards councillors and created 6 at-large councillor positions to provide better city-wide representation. In the same year the LGC turned down the Western Bay of Plenty District Council's proposal to disestablish its community boards and confirmed that they should remain in place and even went so far as to say that the council should consider establishing more boards.
2. Anyone who made a submission - written or oral - to the IP may lodge an appeal if they disagree with the Final Proposal. Their appeal must stick to the matters they raised in their original submission. However, if a submitter to the IP finds something in the FP they disagree with but did not cover in their original submission they can lodge an objection against that matter too.
3. People who did not submit to the IP, but disagree with it, or just a particular part of it, can lodge an objection specifying the nature of their objection and, if they like, suggesting what they think would work better. What this means is that virtually any resident can object to the FP. And should do so!
4. A ground for appeal or objection that should not be overlooked is that the boundaries for the council's 8 general wards do not coincide with so-called communities of interest, or, to put it simply, they are in the wrong place, they do not represent what any common sense person would regard as communities of interest.
For example, the council has decreed that Greerton should be split into two parts: the northern side of Chadwick road will belong to the Te Papa ward and the southern side will belong to the Tauriko ward. How do Greerton people feel about that? Judea and Bethlehem are deemed by the council to comprise one community of interest and will make up the Bethlehem ward. Really! The council has calculated that Arataki is just as big as the Mount and Papamoa and should be a ward on its own. How did they work that one out?
5. The easiest way to find out what the council's final proposal is all about and determine whether or not you agree with it is to look through the page that was posted on the council's website on 12/11/21. Google Tauranga city council elections review and it will come up.
6. There is not a response form on the website.
You can make your objection by …
(a) sending an email to [email protected], or
(b) posting a letter to the council at Private Bag12022, Tauranga 3143, or
(c) dropping a letter off at any library or at the council customer service office in Willow Street.
Remember, the consultation period ends at 5pm on Monday the 13th of December. Your appeal or objection must be in by then.
It doesn’t have to be in clever language. Direct and to the point (without being abusive) is best. It’s YOUR opinion.
The council must send all appeals and objections to the Local Government Commission; it cannot pick and choose which ones it forwards.
7. If you are not sure what kind of system is best, you can look at the other options that the council considered. They are shown on the council's webpage. Of course, you can out forward your own ideas about what would be a better system. Don't worry too much about detail; just say what you think as clearly as you can. This is not a literary contest.
You might like to consider asking for 1 city-wide ward with a mix of 4 ward and 7 at-large councillors. That could give general roll electors the right to vote up to 11 councillors and Maori roll electors up to 8 councillors. A system very much like this was the outright winner in the feedback survey that the council carried out but, as usual, the council ignored the public's opinion.
8. And, don't forget about community boards. If you are in favour of having genuine community input into Tauranga's governance system, ask for community boards to be established. They have proved valuable elsewhere
The LGC's appeals and objections process is not like the so-called consultation process carried out by the Tauranga City Council in which it sets the rules and then acts as judge, jury and executioner. This is an opportunity to have an independent body pay proper attention to what the community thinks and make an unbiased decision. It’s called democracy. As said earlier, the LGC is not there to rubber stamp staff and council proposals, it will form its own opinions, and your input will help it to do that.
This is your chance - your last opportunity until 2028 - to play a part in deciding how your council representatives will be elected for the next two terms of government, how many of them you will be able to vote for and will have access to, if there is going to be any genuine grassroots contribution to governance through community boards. Don't miss out on this opportunity. Write to the council with your ideas and let the LGC make the final decision.