Discussion on authority cut postponed

History lessons, accusations of bullying by councillors and claims of indecent haste flew around the Central Otago District Council chamber in Alexandra yesterday.

A report to the council which proposed reduced delegated authority for the council’s four community boards brought about 25 people to the public gallery, including a former Central Otago District councillor and past and present community board members.

Central Otago has community boards in the Teviot Valley and Maniototo as well as Vincent and Cromwell. Each board has at least one member on the district council.

Council chief executive Peter Kelly proposed a review of the boards’ delegated authority — including their ability to spend without council oversight in areas such as maintaining and upgrading community centres, public halls and museums as well as parks and cemeteries.

The proposal was included in the agenda for the community boards’ first meeting this year. Community boards meet throughout the month, which left them between three weeks and — for Teviot Valley — three days to make a written submission to the council.

Cromwell Community Board chairwoman Anna Harrison told yesterday’s meeting she was concerned the decision had been predetermined and said there had been inflammatory behaviour by councillors towards board members to persuade them to fall into line.

"The behaviour has been described to me as angry, dismissive and bullying."

What should be managed by the council across the whole district needed to be assessed before boards’ delegated authority was discussed, as the former would inform the latter, she said.

Former Central Otago District councillor Shirley Calvert said boards’ responsibilities and delegated authority should be reviewed but not with such speed and lack of consultation.

Former Cromwell Community Board member Robin Dicey said the haste with which the process was being pursued needed to be explained.

Mr Dicey’s son James, who was involved in the Cromwell group Stop The Asset Grab, said he was concerned there had been no digging into the history of boards’ delegated authority and why the system was set up the way it was.

Cromwell did not want to join the CODC but was forced to as part of the local government reorganisation in 1989, he said.

Cromwell Community Board member Bob Scott asked if the Maniototo and Vincent Community Boards had made a wise and reasoned decision.

"Do they realise that by voting to accept this change they have effectively consigned themselves to approving street names and looking after cemeteries?"

Cr Lynley Claridge said it was difficult to make financial decisions for the good of the whole district when community boards were making decisions the council was not party to.

After a lengthy debate a majority of the councillors voted to delay the discussion until after consultation later in the year.

Cr Stu Duncan was unhappy with the outcome and he and Cr Tracey Paterson voted against the decision.

"You are just kicking the can down the street," he said.

The Maniototo and Vincent Community Boards accepted the initial proposal with little discussion.