Letter to Kāpiti community board members from Mayor K Gurunathan
February 18, 2020
Community Board Members
There has been increased interest in what community boards can do more. This has partly been stimulated by LGNZ's localism campaign and my own mayoral campaign that picked up on the positives of the LGNZ initiated discussion.
A good place to start is to mention something I have noted to the Waikanae Board members and the chair of Paraparumu Raumati Board. This was for the boards to look carefully at the current delegations given to them by council. I have said this because the LGA under s53 Powers of Community Boards states that boards have powers that are delegated to it by council. The current governance model we have adopted outlines these specific delegations. I would advise that it would be useful for boards to discuss these and consider whether they are currently fully exercising the scope of their existing delegations to fulfil the role of boards as outlined by LGA s52 (a) to (f). Those averse to strengthening boards could argue against increasing Board powers when the existing powers have not been fully leveraged.
I want to discuss some ideas. In my campaign I mooted the need to strengthen the role of boards in community safety. The current delegations include this "Assisting with local civil defence and emergency management activities". I believe the value that boards' input will be served if boards can show how this responsibility is managed and where possible extended. As to the latter I recently organised a visit, by Otaki board chair, deputy mayor, and the three councillors who live within the Greater Otaki area, to Horowhenua to meet their Neighbourhood Support Groups coordinator and HDC staff. As you know Otaki's Crown agency boundary lines puts Otaki police area north to be serviced from Levin. They see the value of overlapping the NSG functions with the Civil Defence and Emergency functions. Their NSG also dovetails into Beach patrol functions - an issue of interest to us as we review our Beach bylaw. The meeting was very useful and the Otaki board is continuing discussions on how to merge and expand these functions to increase grassroots connectivity. It may be useful to add that there is an opportunity for boards to also look to merge the work on NSG and Civil Emergency with the work Age Concern has and is continuing to do on social isolation. This falls under s52 (e) LGA "Communicate with community organisations and special interest groups within the community". To help with considering this topic I have asked staff to brief community boards on current community safety initiatives, including Neighbourhood Support.
Also relevant to the community safety issue. Since last year I have had conversations with the Kapi Mana Area Commander Tracey Thompson on the local police keeping our community boards informed on what's been happening in the board areas. I have discussed this with some board members. A six-weekly reporting cycle coinciding with board meetings could be the way to go. Such briefings could also include one from the Community Patrol. Briefing could include a public excluded session and a public session depending on the need-to-know information. These scheduled reporting opportunities need to be flexible given the demand on police resources. A second area of concern is related to LGA s52 (a) (b) on the boards role to advocate and represent the interests of the community and to do that on matters referred to it by council. The district is under growth pressure and the District Plan has a number of local outcome documents created via community consultation which should shape local development. Do individual boards know those documents that define local values within their board areas? A specific delegated authority to boards includes: "Working with Council and community to establish Local Outcome Statements ". I believe a number of such outcome statement documents are currently out of date.
At present notified resource consent applications are publicised to elected members through EMBs. A more proactive alert could be to include them in the board agendas to enable discussion around potential board submissions to such applications. The same could apply to alerting boards on opportunities to submit on significant hearings on liquor licence applications.
A third area of potential exploration is for boards to be more involved in the oversight of community markets. These weekend markets provide a very special quality to local communities. As Kevin, one of Paraparumu Beach Market operator has defined , these markets are community centres without walls. They are also economic connectors between our urban centres and our rural economy.
Fourth area relates to the current delegated power:"Approving criteria for and disbursement of community-based grants funds as approved through the LTP or Annual Plan". A question. Instead of being locked in to disbursing a maximum of $500 grants, should boards have the choice of using the existing grants allocation to bulk funding what the board , through consultation, identifies as significant projects/ events? Further, should boards be allocated an additional fund by council for them to bulk fund projects/events and to do this via a participatory budgeting process. And finally, in my campaign I suggested another funding possibility. Boards have no power to strike rates, that is a council function. But there have been instances where boards have done their community consultation to back a project and have requested council to facilitate a targeted rate on their local community. These funding issues could be LTP conversations.
A fifth area is around the role of boards and their potential interface with local iwi. Boards may already have Maori members onboard who may be best placed to play an active role. Is this an area boards would like to explore given the increasing influence of local iwi on councils activities.
The above ideas are exactly that, ideas. In any change there must be processes to achieve the outcomes. Localism, as it pertains to leveraging and expanding the role of community boards into its local community, needs time and inclusive discussions. It's not a 100m sprint but a marathon. This needs a genuine conversation between the councillors, the boards and staff. There is also the challenge of the workloads staff carry and their ability to make changes quickly. It does not help if the language used in these communications are open to interpretations as being rude or perceived as threatening or bullying. I look forward to hearing about your own discussions.