The Western Front
The council decision of three wards and eight councillors has split the council and Cr Pittar is looking for support for the smaller towns of Waihi Beach, Katikati, Te Puke and Maketu.
No other councillors have at the moment come forward to explain the representation process in public meetings, but this is understandable. They are busy meeting with each other for an arm wrestle before they make a final decision, which will be notified on December 10. Any public submissions could be ignored in the process. Even if one ‘community of interest’, like Katikati or Waihi Beach, recognises the power it has been given, any submissions that it might make on its own behalf will be swamped by the councillors’ district-wide battle.
The hidden issues are with the overall control of the council and nothing to do with communities participating in change for the structure and operation of the district. I will compare some of the issues for a district wide model and offer a suggestion for discussion.
Stop playing games
I have to confess, I didn’t like the Omokoroa model but I now recognise that it has grown out of a need where the Kaimai/Omokoroa central ward has no town focus. It is a collection of little communities around and dependent for their services on Tauranga. The Local Government suggestion that ‘communities of interest’ should define a ward and representation that follows does not work in Kaimai. But the Omokoroa model, where councillors at large communicate with a multitude of smaller interest groups, has the flexibility and promise of continuity as gradually Tauranga expands.
It is not a model for the already established wards with their service towns which would be disadvantaged. The Eastern Ward suggested of Waihi Beach, Katikati and Matakana Island will need strong community boards participating in local council decision-making. According to the rules, Matakana Island is entitled to full representation because of its isolation, if it wants it. The main requirement from Local Government is that communities should be recognised and should be given a better chance to take part in the management of their own area. This is the reason for the faster response times and the savings being made already in districts like Thames Coromandel.
Way to go
The councillors must forget their arm wrestle. Tauranga was in a similar position until the Local Government Commission stepped in and negotiated a central Tauranga with voting at large and five satellite ‘community boards’ to look after the interests of the recognised settled communities of interest of Mount Maunganui, Pyes Pa, etc. This combined solution has obvious relevance to a Central Omokoroa and more independence for the established areas recognised in Mr Pittar’s position. I call on all of the councillors to call meetings on your own initiative to stake a claim for your area. Anybody listening out there?
If your councillor isn’t doing anything, chase them up. Don’t worry about the other areas. Make your demands known, documented and in a submission. In the same submission, consider the Tauranga model that I have just described for the district. There is no way that any one of the models suggested by council is going to work for all areas. Don’t worry about the rumours of amalgamation with Tauranga. If that happens we will be using their model anyway. Don’t worry about amalgamation with Thames Coromandel. They have already implemented elements of strong community self-governance.
It is time for all you semi-retired, second-time round teenagers, the true untapped experience that has been watching the problem of the Bay and tensing to pounce. This is your chance. Tomorrow the world!