Strong support for locally elected boards has seen the Western Bay of Plenty District Council drop plans to scrap its five community boards and replace them with three community committees.
After extensive community consultation, including a series of public meetings, the council has adopted its final proposal for the review of representation arrangements for the 2019 and 2022 triennial elections.
The council’s initial proposal was that the five community boards in Waihi Beach, Katikati, Omokoroa, Te Puke and Maketu be replaced by three community committees aligned to the three ward boundaries of Katikati- Waihi Beach, Kaimai and Maketu-Te Puke.
Unlike the elected community boards, the community committees were to be made up of council-appointed members.
The council believed the committees would create opportunities for broader representation at a local level and allow for “a more flexible, agile and timely response to community challenges and opportunities”.
After nine community have-your-say meetings and 460 public submissions, council is now proposing a mix of community boards and ward councillor committees.
The final proposal will see the Waihi Beach, Maketu and Te Puke community boards retained in their current boundaries and the Katikati Community Board retained with an adjusted boundary. It is proposed the Omokoroa Community Board be disestablished.
Ward councillor committees are proposed for the Kaimai Ward, including Omokoroa, the eastern end of the Maketu-Te Puke Ward (all areas not covered by these two community boards i.e. Paengaroa, Pongakawa, Pukehina and Otamarakau) and the Matakana Island and Rangiwaea Island parts of the existing Katikati/Waihi Beach Ward (all areas not covered by the these two community boards).
The council is also proposing the first-past-the-post voting system be retained and the number of councillors elected from the existing three wards remain unchanged at 11. The Mayor would continue to be elected on a district-wide basis.
Mayor Garry Webber says the decision is the most pragmatic solution that council could achieve in order to acknowledge the wishes of all the district's communities.
"This will satisfy the requests of the majority of submitters and shows that we are happy to go out and talk with our communities, listen and to respond."
Waihi Beach Community Board chair Allan Sole is “very pleased” his board is to stay.
“A large number of the community spoke and supported the idea of community boards and democracy.”
Maketu Community Board chair Shane Beech believes council has made a “very wise” decision.
“We had something like 300 submissions from the Maketu community with about 94 per cent in favour of the existing community board. We appreciate the community standing up for community boards. Now it’s up the boards to fulfil that obligation.”
The final proposal will be publicly notified on October 2, 2018 followed by a one-month appeal/objection period through to November 2, 2018. If any appeals or objections are received a final determination will be made by the Local Government Commission (which is independent of council) by April next year.
Council is required to review its representation arrangements every six years, including the shape of the district's voting wards, the number of elected councillors and to ensure that individuals and communities are democratically represented.