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Smith looks to close local govt loophole

Subject: ufnz media release -- local govt loophole Date sent: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 12:02:35 +1200 From: "Mark Stewart" To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Media Statement For immediate release Monday, 26 July, 2004

Smith looks to close local govt loophole

UF MP Murray Smith has launched a Member's Bill to close a loophole in the Local Government Act that is being exploited by the Hutt City Council and a few other councils in the South Island to allow the appointment of ward committees rather than the election of community boards.

Hutt City has three community boards and four ward committees and Mr Smith, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Petone Community Board, said that they all get paid the same and have been delegated the same functions by the council.

However, Mr Smith said, the key features of a community board are that it is an autonomous authority separately elected by the voters of the community that it represents which has the primary task by statute of representing and advocating for its community to the territorial authority. On the other hand, the usual distinguishing features of ward committees are that their members are appointed by the local authority instead of being elected, that their responsibilities are solely controlled by delegation (i.e. they have no statutory functions) and that they (and their members) exist at the whim of the local authority and are therefore not independent.

By exploiting the loophole in the Act, Mr Smith said, the council is, once again, showing its propensity for flouting democratic safeguards and is denying ratepayers the right to appoint their own representatives to express their concerns and to make decisions affecting their own areas.

"By appointing the ward committee members, the council affects their ability to fearlessly advocate for their communities because, if the local authority doesn't like the criticism they get by those members, they can simply not reappoint them next time."

Mr Smith believes that there is already evidence that the Hutt City Council has done exactly that.

While the Bill is yet to be drawn in the ballot, Mr Smith is heartened by the fact that it has already received the strong support of the Minister of Local Government, Chris Carter, as well as last weekend's meeting of lower North Island community board representatives.

He has asked the Government to include the amendment in its next Local Government Amendment Bill (if it has not been drawn beforehand) and is confident that will be done.

ENDS

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