No change to format
After a sometimes stormy debate, the sweeping new format for local government in this region goes through to the next stage after Gisborne District Council approved a final proposal to establish a council of 10 and three community boards.
An alternative proposal from rural councillor Graeme Thomson for two wards, one city and one rural, was not put to the meeting after a ruling from Mayor Meng Foon that it was a direct negative to the motion before the council.
The final proposal, an election at large of nine councillors and the Mayor, plus three community boards — East Coast, Western Rural and Gisborne — is now subject to a one-month appeal/objection period.
Mr Thomson said the previous discussion lacked input from people with knowledge of the rural area.
There would be an extra cost in community boards, which were a bit of an unknown.
They had not been successful but the council had a number of successful community groups.
The council should not get hung up on reducing numbers. It was a unitary authority with a big workload, which had been recognised by the salaries commission, he said.
There was a chance with the council proposal that no one from the rural area would be elected. His proposal would at least give some rural representation.
But after a challenge under standing orders from Shannon Dowsing, Mr Thomson’s amendment was not accepted.
Rehette Stoltz, who chaired the previous meeting, said the final proposal would still come up for objections or appeals.
She had invited Mr Thomson to watch the recording of the debate live streaming because it showed everyone had come with an open mind. They had realised they should be brave and futureproof the region.
They had come to this proposal after a methodical debate. It was not just plucked out of the air. It was well worked through, well debated and that was why she was comfortable to move it.
Josh Wharehinga said he was happy to support the proposal because it removed the boundary between the city and rural areas. There were people in the city who would support rural candidates and rural people who supported city candidates.
Brian Wilson said the first meeting had gone through a proper process. This was all about democracy. The more people making decisions, either through community boards or otherwise, the better.
The council had been artificially making boundaries to create communities of interest that no longer worked. Rural people were saying their wards were too large now. The council had to think about its community as far as democracy was concerned. He was proud that the councillors at the previous meeting thought about what was best for their community, not for their own position.
Increase to 10 councillors defeatedBill Burdett said it was a privilege to represent his ward. The people were different from those in the city and that would always be the case.
If the community board was the way of the future, he hoped it worked.
“My time in local government is almost up and I think you have unfairly looked at how important rural representation is,” he said.
The late Bob Elliott (former GDC chief executive) told him 15 years ago the amalgamated council would ultimately end up with the city in control — and that was happening.
Andy Cranston favoured the proposal but preferred 10 councillors to nine.
Pat Seymour thought the council had not considered well enough that they were a unitary authority. A committee could be left with four people to make a decision, which was completely ridiculous.
“I just don’t think that we really thought about the global picture,” she said.
There would be an opportunity for the public to make some comment because in the end it was not about those sitting around the table, but how they represented the community.
Larry Foster said the rural community would be served by more people than it was now. The community boards would include more parts of the community than one councillor could. It was time to move on.
Karen Fenn said rural communities were dying. The council needed to revitalise them. Community boards could train young people to become councillors.
She was happy with nine councillors — quality not quantity.
Malcolm MacLean said at the community meetings just held, he saw only one city councillor at the rural meetings he went to.
Meredith Akuhata-Brown said this region struggled with democracy. Community boards would allow more people to get involved. She did not believe it was a city onslaught, as Mr Burdett had said. They had decided to be bold, adventurous and stop the urban-rural divide.
Amber Dunn believed the proposal they had come up with would provide better representation.
Mr Foon said one of the frustrations for community boards was that they had no delegation of money.
“I personally think that rural representation is important, however I can feel the mood of the council for a new programme.”
There had never been a shortage of candidates. Gisborne had the most diverse council in New Zealand.
Rehette Stoltz said this was not a silver bullet. The proposal was not just plucked out of the air. Everybody came to the last meeting with an open mind. There would be growing pains but they were moving in the right direction.
An amendment by Mr Cranston for 10 councillors was defeated by nine votes to five. The substantive motion approving the proposal was carried on a voice vote, with Pat Seymour audibly voting against it.