What’s in a name?

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Heather McCracken

GRASS roots politi­cians are fight­ing for their jobs as au­thor­i­ties re­think how the Auck­land re­gion is run.

But they face an up­hill bat­tle just get­ting peo­ple to re­mem­ber their names.

Of the 21 peo­ple ap­proached by the Auck­land City Har­bour News this week, none could name a lo­cal com­mu­nity board mem­ber.

And when shown a list of mem­bers from their ward, only three found the names familiar.

Auck­land City Coun­cil has beefed up lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in its sub­mis­sion to the Royal Com­mis­sion on Auck­land Gov­er­nance.

The of­fi­cer’s draft was re­vised af­ter an ear­lier pro­posal to scrap com­mu­nity boards sparked strong crit­i­cism.

But West­ern Bays res­i­dent Richard Nieper says he’d go straight to the coun­cil with a lo­cal prob­lem, not his lo­cal board.

He read about the can­di­dates be­fore vot­ing last year, but can’t re­call them now.

“I took the vot­ing rea­son­ably se­ri­ously, but as far as day to day stuff goes, I wouldn’t have a clue,” he says.

Tom Maxwell doesn’t know any of his Eden Al­bert board mem­bers.

But when shown a list, he recog­nised the names of coun­cil­lors Cathy Casey and Glenda Fryer.

Some of those ques­tioned say they would make an ef­fort to find their rep­re­sen­ta­tive to deal with a lo­cal prob­lem.

Avon­dale res­i­dent Guy Mcel­roy says he’d rather talk to some­one lo­cal.

“It seems eas­ier to go that way rather than go through lay­ers of coun­cil,” he says.

But Sher­i­lyn Matthias says she’d be more likely to con­tact a lo­cal busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tion or the coun­cil.

“I’d ring up and see who the best per­son was. It’s eas­ier that way.”

Fo­cus group re­search by the coun­cil in pre­par­ing for the royal com­mis­sion also showed a low aware­ness of com­mu­nity boards.

Par­tic­i­pants said greater un­der­stand­ing of the boards would be valu­able, and some felt they needed a phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion.

But al­most ev­ery­one was against the idea of com­mu­nity boards chang­ing in the fu­ture.

West­ern Bays board chair­man Bruce Kilmis­ter says mem­bers don’t have to be widely known, as long as they’re ac­ces­si­ble when needed.

“The com­mu­nity boards have no bud­get for pro­mo­tion, we’re very much in the shadow of coun­cil,” he says.

“But I’m hop­ing moves to strengthen and re­in­force us will mean we can do a lot more work in the com­mu­nity.”

He says they’re well utilised by so­cial ser­vices, sports and hobby groups.

Deputy mayor David Hay is not sur­prised by the low level of aware­ness.

“You only have to go along to com­mu­nity boards and see who goes.

“It’s less than 15 peo­ple who have any sort of reg­u­lar con­tact.”

He says there’s merit in bas­ing con­stituency of­fices in each ward in­stead.

“Th­ese sorts of things need some good de­bate in the pub­lic as to the pros and cons.”

The coun­cil’s draft sub­mis­sion to the royal com­mis­sion pro­posed the re­gion’s eight coun­cils be re­placed by one en­tity, and the num­ber of elected mem­bers dras­ti­cally re­duced.

It was to be con­firmed at a coun­cil meet­ing last night.

Auck­land Re­gional Coun­cil has also re­leased a one-coun­cil model with rep­re­sen­ta­tion at lo­cal and re­gional level.

Sub­mis­sions to the Royal Com­mis­sion close on Tues­day, with pub­lic hear­ings to be held in May and June.

The com­mis­sion is ex­pected to re­port its find­ings in De­cem­ber.

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