Recommendation to end community board defended

The chairman of the independent advisory group which recommended disestablishing the Wanaka Community Board has defended the review panel’s process.

He said "they were there to provide a view they [councillors and council staff] would listen to."

Bruce Robertson, who has a background in governance and risk, was hired by the Queenstown Lakes District Council to chair the seven-person group tasked with reviewing future representation in the Queenstown Lakes district.

The board was convened at the start of this year and met four times.

It recommended the creation of three new wards, of four councillors representing each ward, and no community boards.

Mr Robertson said he presented the group’s recommendations at a 90-minute workshop with councillors on June 1, speaking to slides prepared by communications manager Naell Crosby-Roe and council electoral officer and senior governance adviser Jane Robertson.

A staff paper which Mr Robertson reviewed went to a full council meeting on June 30, where councillors voted to accept the group’s recommendation, as well as a last-minute amendment to have an Arrowtown councillor.

A Wanaka community representative on the advisory group, Viv Milsom, has since expressed concerns about the way the board’s recommendations were presented to the council.

She said minutes were taken but there was no written report and council staff, not the group members, prepared the presentation.

She said the vote by the advisory group not to have community boards was "actually very divided", with two abstentions.

Mr Robertson said Ms Milsom was a "good advocate" for the Wanaka Community Board but the vote to disestablish the board was passed by a majority and the two people who abstained did so because they were not residents in the district.

He said in his briefing to councillors on June 1 he made it very clear "we did not vote specifically to disestablish community boards, we voted for fair and equitable representation across the district and the corollary of that meant no community boards".

"We observed that since its creation Wanaka is the only community of interest that has a community board and we have asked the question why in terms of fairness and equity is one community favoured over the rest?" he said.

Mr Robertson said representation was often a challenging question, particularly in the case of Queenstown and Wanaka as a combined district.

"I think it is important and valuable that the council has sought to review it and review it regularly and my only request is for the community from both sides of the hill to make their views known to council within the time."

Submissions close on August 6.

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