What does representing your community on Council really mean?
It’s time to understand that Council makes decisions on more than just roads, rates and rubbish.
As part of the Generation Change He panoni ā reanga campaign, Western Bay of Plenty District Council is on a mission to unpack the key role Council, and Elected Members (Mayor, Councillor and Community Board member) play in the community.
By standing for Council, candidates in this year’s local elections will have the potential to influence and inform decisions on the almost 40 different services that Council provides.
Not only that, but each elected members’ role – be it the Mayor, Councillors, or Community Board members – has a different set of responsibilities and requires a variety of skills and experience to help deliver real change for the community.
Council CEO John Holyoake says that there is a common misconception that Councils only deliver roads, rates and rubbish – but there is much more to the role than that.
“It’s time to bust the myth about Council’s role in the community. We provide and maintain not just infrastructure, but also services and facilities that help you enjoy the great Western Bay lifestyle we know and love. Think skateparks, swimming pools, playgrounds, libraries, community events, arts and culture, transport and animal services.
“Council also plays a vital role in promoting the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of its communities, now and in the future. This means we need to think about how the actions or activities we undertake or support now, will impact not only on the present communities but also how they will affect future generations.
“We’re facing changing times, and our community is changing too, which means the people making decisions need to have all sorts of experience and skills. It’s about capturing everyone’s voices, young and old, which is why this year we’re asking for Generation Change to come forward and stand,” says John.
What makes a great Elected Member (Mayor, Councillor and Community Board member)
Councillors are responsible for bringing their own, and their community’s, views to the table to support decision-making and setting of vision for the District. The Mayor plays an important role in leading all elected members and representing the District at a national level.
And while there is no blueprint for a perfect Councillor, some of the skills to be effective include: the ability to think strategically and for future generations, analyse information and make decisions, networking and relationship building skills, an appreciation of the role Council plays in the District, and being prepared to commit time, energy and passion to the role.
Community board members’ roles are primarily about networking and relationships. It’s their job to listen to the community and feed back to Council on matters in their area. Candidates are expected not only to attend community board meetings but to engage with various groups to stay connected and informed.
How you Council is up to you
Immediately following the election, the newly nominated Mayor establishes the political structure for the next three years.
This year’s successful candidates will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the new structure and potentially see some new practices adopted such as:
- meetings running after work hours with time restrictions or
- setting a limit of meetings each month.
- Council already accommodates remote meeting attendance via Zoom to enable participation when councillors can not be physically present.
Council knows that changes to the current meeting structure and schedule is needed to facilitate this different approach to meetings.
“It’s about thinking differently. Because having different voices around the table makes for more balanced decision making,” says John.
“We’re not making any promises, rather acknowledging we need to change too and here’s some ways we could potentially do this by working together.”
Support from Council
Council has a responsibility to support its elected members, so they can focus on doing an excellent job for the community. This includes
- support to claim for childcare, travel, travel time and hearings fees (for those qualified as commissioners)
- providing a laptop to access electronic meeting papers and technical support.
- the Governance team being available to assist elected members with any questions and responsibilities.
Candidate nominations open Friday 15 July. Visit generationchange.nz for more information on how to stand for Council or a community board, what being a Councillor involves, and how to enrol to vote.