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Residents association mooted the new format

The establishment of community boards would improve the calibre of elected councillors, Gisborne District Council was told by Tairawhiti Residents Association spokesman Rick Thorpe.

He was presenting the association’s submission on the council’s initial representation review proposal.

The association recommended a reduction in the number of councillors and the establishment of three new community boards representing the city, East Coast and western rural area.

“We are concerned that the proposals are a crude tinkering with the ward boundaries,” he said.

Like most regions, the district’s rural population was declining and the urban one continuing to increase. The issue of maintaining fair representation for rural residents was not going to go away.

“Having another city councillor every six years to preserve the four rural wards is not sustainable and many suggest we already have too many councillors.”

Increasing the number of councillors was a mistake, he submitted.

Although community boards were not a complete panacea, they could provide better representation. Not all community boards had been successful, so research into some of the mistakes made would be useful.

The boards would provide an excellent pathway for prospective new councillors and provide a better selection of experienced representatives at election time.

It was possible that retiring councillors might choose to be involved in community boards, passing on their wisdom.

The calibre of elected councillors would improve as competition increased for the reduced number of seats around the council table.

The introduction of community boards would allow the regional council to better focus on its unitary role. The current rural-urban divide split the council on many issues.

The role of community board member would appeal to a wider section of the community, improving opportunities for better representation.

Remuneration for board members would be minimal. The opportunity to restore some of the social responsibility motivation to local politics would be positive.

Clearly any discussion on reducing the number of councillors would not be popular in this forum (the council), however if the district was to stay true to the principle of fair and effective representation, this issue should be given proper consideration.

The association knew how hard it was to get community participation in local council issues and it hoped this submission would progress the conversation.