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What powers will the boards have?

Opinion Piece

The decision of the Local Government Commission on the representation review for Gisborne District Council is being anxiously awaited by some, and in the best interests of the district it needs to come as soon as possible.

To recap, the council’s final proposal is for nine councillors and the Mayor to be elected at large, and three community boards to be formed for the Coast, the west and a city one.

The proposal has aroused angst in the rural community, with objectors at Monday’s hearing including two rural councillors and Gisborne-Wairoa Federated Farmers.

The process that arrived at this proposal was defended by acting mayor Rehette Stoltz as being thorough and something the council was comfortable with.

The bottom line is that under the commission’s population-based criteria, it was always going to be difficult to retain rural wards in the face of shrinking populations. In this review round it would have involved the unwieldy prospect of Hexton and Wainui being joined with the Coast.

If the council proposal gets the nod from the commission, attention will turn to the community boards and what powers they will have.

The council has not fixed any of the details in this regard, arguing that it was pointless to do so before the commission’s final decision.

That may be so, but the new format is due to be in place by the next election in October 2019 which does not leave a lot of time.

While the council has the power to fix the format for the community boards, it would surely be foolhardy to do so without some consultation with the affected communities.

For rural people the big issue is what delegated authorities the boards will have. Nobody will want to be involved in a talk shop.

If the council’s proposal is approved it will mark the biggest change in the unitary authority since it was formed in 1989.

At that time there was equal representation from the city and the Cook and Waikohu Counties, and the first mayor, John Clarke, came from Waikohu. That equality steadily eroded over successive reviews to reach the present proposal where all councillors, rural or urban, will need district-wide support.