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Council vote keeps status quo for now

Posted 21 August 2018 by Gold FM in Council Matters

On Wednesday, August 15 Hauraki District Council heard from those who wished to speak to submissions they made about the 2018 Representation Review.

Most written submissions received (84.5%), opposed the council’s initial proposal on 27 June 2018, which resolved to reduce representation to three Councillors for each of its three Wards (Waihi, Paeroa, Plains) plus a Mayor - while 15.5% supported it. 

Several written submissions asked for an extra representative for Waihi and for the establishment of community boards.
“The possibility of bringing back community boards was raised in the feedback, but there is absolutely no appetite from Council to go down this road,” Mayor Tregidga said in a statement yesterday.

Due to Waihi’s population being about 20% larger than either of the other two wards Waihi is entitled to an extra representative, but the district’s Mayor and Councillors initially decided three Councillors for each Ward was their preference even though this option does not comply with the fair representation criteria (+/- 10% rule) required by law. 
“The proposal to continue with an even number of councillors across all wards reflects the current council's view of Hauraki as `one district’. While invested in representing the people in their own wards, our councillors are also interested in working together on the bigger picture - what’s best for the entire district as a whole,” the Mayor said.

When Mayor Tregidga announced at the public hearing that ‘to clarify’ the proceedings would not be recorded and the first submitter to speak asked why, the Mayor replied, “Because we don’t have to,” which seemed a bit offhand.

Councillor Paul Milner recorded a conflict of interest as Positive Paeroa had submitted that they were happy with the initial proposal of three Councillors across the three Wards and no community boards. Councillor Milner is the Council Representative on the Positive Paeroa Committee.

Don Swales and Ross Harris, two Councillors who submitted and appealed against Waihi having an extra representative the last time a review was done, did not register a conflict of interest.

However, it was interesting to note that three of the six people that took the opportunity to speak to their submissions were former councillors, so presumably had a good handle on council process.

The first submitter wasted no time rubbishing the council’s publicity and media statements that reducing the number of councillors will be more effective. She demanded to know who around the council table was ineffective. “Is it you, is it you or you,” she asked pointing around the table. She reminded them that the law says you have to do a review about fair representation, not about the money you get (the Remuneration Authority has been consulting with Local Government about a review which will be introduced following the 2019 election), not about the workloads, not about the Plains being a larger area. “You represent the people that voted for you,” she told the councillors.

The Mayor agreed the council had been involved in a remuneration review and that they did all know about upcoming changes to remuneration, saying it was unfair to suggest they had just come up with a number. The submitter told him his reasons were flawed and that what she cared about was the fairness of the representation “where you are treating one ward differently to the other two.”

The second submitter called a statement the council made about creating a leaner more efficient council by cutting back on the number of people as farcical. He wanted to know what was inefficient now. Was it the council or the staff? He also brought up the ‘Waikino incident’ (before notifying the representation review HDC held a consultation meeting with the Waikino community to ask whether they would like to move into the Paeroa Ward) telling the council it showed a lack of understanding and they had alienated the Waihi Ward and lost a lot of mana. He wanted to know whether this was a cost-cutting exercise. “The whole argument you’ve put forward smacks of desperation.” 
He also talked about community boards, saying they are a good training ground for councillors and he didn’t like the terms council used by addressing them as costly and ineffective. And he added that he supports higher remuneration for councillors.

The next submitter spoke briefly and told council she didn’t like the numbers game they were playing. She wanted to know why the council was putting the community through this process. She also said she’d like to see community boards established.

Submitter four told the council he was confused by council’s statements regarding greater diversity and reminded them resolutions must include reasons for the proposed change and the reason given was not enough to justify the change they had proposed. He wondered if two councillors should abstain or risk tripping up the process. “Much is made about ‘one district’ but Waihi is different from the other wards,” he said. “The physical and topographical features are markedly different and it is a distinct community of interest.” “Paeroa and the Plains are close together while Waihi is separated by a gorge and it is a toll call to phone another Ward.” This submitter also asked for community boards, saying “We no longer have Ward Committee meetings that are recorded in agendas.”
Mayor Tregidga told the submitter there was no conflict of interest. This is quite different to the LTP (Long Term Plan). “In this process there is no conflict of interest,” he said.

The following submitter congratulated the council on the job done over the past 20 years and told them a lot the district’s income comes from Waihi. He talked about the challenges facing the district, saying having the four councillors Waihi has now is marginal so dropping to three would be a mistake. “I’m not a political person but care for Waihi; it's a great community to live in. To lose representation now would be a mistake.”

The last submitter spoke about absentee property owners in places like Whiritoa saying the numbers didn’t seem to add up and that a lot of ratepayers weren’t being counted. It would be easy to justify Waihi staying at four and reducing the other Wards to three each he said. He also made a point about even numbers across the Wards giving the Mayor a powerful position with his vote.

No submitter supporting the three three three or 9 councillors plus a Mayor option spoke to their submission.

Mayor Tregidga called a recess before the decision was taken. When the Councillors and Mayor came back into the Chamber, Councillor Adams moved: THAT the original representation arrangement proposal of 3/3/3 be amended to 4/4/4, with no community boards. Councillor Thorp seconded the resolution.
In putting the motion, a vote was taken on a show of hands.

A division was called.

Councillors voting against the motion that representation be 4/4/4 without community boards were: Cr Buckthought, Cr McLean and Cr Milner.
Councillor Max McLean commented he understood three of the other options - only two actually complied – a three four four or five four four option. “I would still like that to occur but going from a three three three to a four four four makes me happier.” Mayor Tregidga replied that they hadn’t considered the five four four option.
Councillor Paul Milner said, “It’s my belief it should be 9 but status quo is a fairer way to go and acceptable by the majority."
Councillor Buckthought supported Councillor Milner’s view.

Councillors voting in support of the motion that representation be 4/4/4 without community boards (unconfirmed):
Cr Adams, Cr Thorp, Cr Leonard, Cr Smeaton, Cr Daley, Cr Spicer, Cr Rattray, Cr Swales, Cr Harris and the Mayor.

At this stage, the amended proposal is just a recommendation. It will be ratified at the 29 August Council meeting, after which there will be a one-month appeal/objection period inviting further feedback from the community.
As the amended proposal still does not comply with the allowable population range for the Waihi Ward, the matter is required to go to the Local Government Commission to make the final decision.