What’s in a name?
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.