Boards differ on representation

Southland District mayor Gary Tong addressing a Community Conversations meeting in Te Anau last year, showing a map revealing a third of residents are missing an extra tier of local representation because they live outside a community board or CDA.

Just like Goldilocks, the Southland District's eight community boards have different takes on the biggest change to the council's proposed representation review. For some the proposed board boundaries are too big, for others just right, and others, not good at all.

The Southland District Council's ongoing representation review proposal would most notably eliminate the district's unique 20 community development area (CDA) sub-committees in lieu of eight expanded community board boundaries covering the entire Southland District. 

Public submissions closed yesterday (June 6) and community boards across the district have been having their say over the last couple of weeks, with Riverton to discuss its submission yesterday afternoon after Advocate South went to press.

Because the CDAs are subcommittees of the district council, they cannot submit on the proposal, but CDA members can submit as individuals.

However, the boards' submissions show divided opinions on whether the new board boundaries are a good fit.

For example, the proposed "Oreti" Community board would encompass the Winton and Wallacetown community boards, along with the Dipton and Limehills/Centre Bush CDAs. The new board would be represented by eight elected members and one councillor. The Fiordland Community Board would combine the Te Anau Community board and the Manapouri CDA. 

The community boards of Winton, Te Anau, and Stewart Island generally support the idea in their submissions, albeit with some recommendations. For example, Stewart Island wants to increase the proposed number of board representatives from four to six.

Te Anau's community board supports the proposal in principle, provided the council makes sure communities of interest who may no longer have elected representatives are actively involved.

"The outcome is very dependent on a general desire by all parties to make it work. We have a combined responsibility to make it work."

The council's proposal would combine Tuatapere and Riverton into a larger "Taramea Te Waewae" community board. Tuatapere and Riverton's community boards both oppose the larger community board concept in their draft submissions, both citing that the area is too large and the two towns' identities are different. Instead, they said, there should be nine boards, not eight. Both advocate that the boards stay separate, albeit with a variation in boundaries. 

Otautau's community board also agreed that the two towns should be kept separate.

The Wallacetown board's draft submission outright rejects being absorbed into a larger board and advocates for maintaining its autonomy.

 "The communities are quite diverse within the proposed Oreti Community Board. Not only are you combining residential communities: you are adding rural demands in there too. It is going to take elected members with special skills and more importantly the right attitudes to make it work. The workload of this proposal will add to the pressures that fulltime workers are already under and we can see that elected members will not be a diverse group."

The Edendale-Wyndham Community Board's submission focuses more on how things would work moving forward, advocating for clear communication throughout the process, defined roles, and retaining the ability to set local rates.

"Council need to be committed to their part in making sure communication is priority."

Many boards also address concern about how local reserves will be retained should the proposal move forward.

While CDAs can’t formally submit, members did meet in Lumsden last week to express their opposition to the proposal.

Lumsden CDA chairman Rob Scott said around 30-40 CDA members from across the district met and consistently opposed the proposal. There were various reasons, all coming down to a fear of losing representation at a local level, he said.

All submissions are expected to go online on the SDC's website on June 13, and will go to the council at its meeting on June 18.


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