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Community boards likely to resurface

Opinion Piece

Advocates of community boards will be disappointed that the Local Government Commission did not approve the council’s proposal to establish them, but they can take heart for the future from this aspect of the commission’s decision.

Gisborne District Council’s final representation proposal included community boards for East Coast, western rural and Gisborne City.

Submissions made to the council included both support and opposition to community boards.

Those opposing did so because they were mooted to replace the certainty of representation for rural areas through the ward system. They felt these boards would be a poor replacement for having representatives at the council table.

The commission’s decision not to proceed with community boards was not a rejection of them per se.

Having decided to retain the ward system, the commission said it could still establish the boards.

“We certainly appreciate the value that community boards can provide and that some community board structures in other districts are very effective.”

They agreed that the areas for the proposed boards seemed appropriate for the role they would have, reflecting groupings of similar communities of interest and being of a geographic scale that would enable boards to make effective decisions on responsibilities or roles delegated to them.

However, they expressed concerns about endorsing this aspect of the council’s proposal at this time. They were unsure that with the retention of wards, “there would be sufficient commitment by all parties to doing all that is necessary to establish a strong community board system”.

Second, they had concerns about the level of public engagement in the development of the council’s proposal — as community boards were not included in the initial representation options considered by the council, and there was no consultation on the proposition.

The commission recommends that if the council wishes to establish boards at a future review, it carry out extensive public engagement at the beginning of the process.

Another push for community boards is likely to pre-empt the next representation review process, in 2024 or earlier.