Waihi Beach meeting readout
Another great community election meeting in Waihī Beach this morning. What really impressed me again was the quality and varied backgrounds of the community board candidates. I’ve seen a great range of people standing for boards in Waihī Beach, Katikati and Te Puke. I have not met all the Maketū candidates but if they are all strong community advocates like Laura, then you are in good hands there too.
Community board members have, in the past, felt frustrated about the lack of engagement from the district council. To my mind, they should have much more say about local issues and, where possible, the final decision in their area. One of the strangest decisions by the council has been ward committees that duplicate and compete with community boards covering the same area – and generate more meeting fees for district councillors. There is a need to develop community consultation systems for those living outside community board areas but no need to duplicate where they already exist. The great thing about community boards is that they can even save ratepayers’ money. In Waihī Beach, for example,, the community (led by the board) has pushed back on expensive but unwanted plans to over-develop Wilson Park.
Other topics to come up at today’s meeting included Three Waters (strong opposition from anyone in the audience who spoke on it), potential amalgamation with Tauranga and the interesting topic of the location in Tauranga City of the headquarters for Western Bays District Council.
Our council pays $65,000 a year in rates to the city for the district headquarters at Barkes Corner, a site which we will lose at some stage to make way for roading. There was a strong belief expressed by both candidates and residents for a nimble council with facilities in Te Puke and Katikati (the latter utilising the empty building that I harp on about). My stance is that we should try to utilise whatever we can get for selling the Barkes Road site and build a good new HQ but not a palace (it is amazing how many councils along SH1 in both the North and South Island seem to have the poshest building in town). Yes, we should have strong satellite offices in Te Puke and Katikati but we will need an HQ – perhaps in Ōmokoroa? Hopefully selling Barkes Corner will cover much of the cost of this.
On amalgamation, I (and others) questioned why we would want to be tied in with the hot mess that is Tauranga City. However, I gently pointed out that we have a centralising government that plans to release its local government plans just after the election – and the rumour is that it might want just 14 councils across the nation. If that happens, it will be time for more protests as it would likely mean one council for the whole of the BOP and very little say for any of us.
Three Waters is predictable in that (almost) every candidate opposed it – and for similar reasons. It is an undemocratic, bureaucratic mess being foisted on us.
Maori wards also came up and I stayed consistent with where I stood 18 months ago at the by-election. I’m OK with them as a way to increase representation if they are based on one person, one vote (ie are democratic). My argument is that if we don’t do them at some stage, we will either be made to do them or end up with something undemocratic. Some examples of undemocratic options being pushed: 1) LGNZ’s push for 50:50 co-governance on community boards; 2) the (aborted) Rotorua scheme with unequal voting strengths; 3) Christchurch plan for unelected appointments by the tribal elite into decision making positions on councils. Parliament and the regional council have Maori seats and so far the sky has not fallen in. Quite the opposite, those in these seats have been remarkably practical and helpful additions to governance, in the main part.
On to Maketū tomorrow morning.