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Review to shape representation

Opinion Piece

What’s on in Council this week

by Isaac Hughes

Isaac Hughes

It is a relatively quiet week ahead at council after a frenetic start to 2021.

The Long Term Plan consultations, submissions, and deliberations have ended. I was privileged to attend the Long Term Plan community hui from Te Araroa to Gisborne. There have been myriad learnings through the process, and I’ve gained a healthy respect for the complexities of local government.

Despite being relatively fresh on the ground, I was pleased to be able to contribute to the debates. I am fortunate to have been supported by my fellow councillors in the intricacies of the decision-making process. There are no clones around the table, which I appreciate. We have a unique group of councillors with different viewpoints and talents.

I believe there was a clear theme throughout the submissions. In general, very few submitters complained about the quantum of rates charged. The consistent message that came through was a reluctance to pay for services not used. On this basis, I voted against 10 percent of the wastewater/water supply rate being included in the general rate, paid by all ratepayers.

The other theme in submissions related to people paying more than their neighbour for the same services. This was particularly relevant with the kiwifruit licences being included in rateable values. Other neighbouring horticultural properties are not affected in the same way by intellectual property licences. As such, I voted to continue our remissions policy, to allow for some relief until other fit-for-purpose tools can be explored.

On another note, our representation review is well under way. The review will help to shape the number of councillors, wards and, potentially, community boards.

I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in local politics to contribute to the discussion. We need to ensure we form a council that is representative of the community.

Now is your chance to indicate whether you would like to increase the number of councillors to allow for a greater variance in backgrounds, interests and perspectives. On the other hand, this will dilute the impact of voices at the table.

Alternatively, you could indicate a preference for a small group, which will allow greater influence for those elected but may foster groupthink. We can have anywhere from five to 29 councillors!

Another consideration on the discussion table relates to community boards. Recent council decisions have shown the importance of rural representation. This will be particularly relevant with an increased population divide between urban and rural areas. As such, the northern rural wards are overrepresented based on current population. Perhaps community boards would allow for robust debate and representation for marginal communities?

There is an online survey to complete on the GDC website. For those who would rather make face-to-face contributions, you have the following opportunities:

■ 6pm, Tuesday, June 8 — live panel discussion on GDC Facebook page

■ 1-4 pm, Wednesday, June 9 — Gisborne Library, Matariki Room

■ 5.30-6.30pm, Thursday, June 10 — Council’s main office

■ 1-2pm, Sunday, June 13 — Te Karaka, Rangatira Scout Hall