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Hutt community boards uncertain about their future

Mar 6th, 2013 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News

HUTT CITY COUNCIL community boards’ first meetings of the year  have revealed mixed attitudes towards their parent council.

In drawing up their plans for 2013, Eastbourne, Petone and Wainuiomata boards report different council responses to their community issues.

Two of the boards say they do not receive enough funding while one is concerned about lack of community engagement.

Petone Community Board chairman Gerald Davidson says getting the council’s backing has not always been straightforward.

“There was a time when the council didn’t give us the support we needed and it was a struggle to get funding for things within the community. It’s a lot better than it used to be, everyone seems to work well together now.”

Mr Davidson sees the survival of Petone’s compact community being decided by the super-city debate. “If community boards get dissolved into wards, Petone won’t be represented properly, because six committee members speaking for 100,000 people won’t work.”

The same concern is expressed  by Eastbourne Community Board chairman Derek Wilshere, who says his community’s self-contained nature often leaves it feeling isolated from the council.

“We get a reasonably good run by the Hutt City Council but we need more support as everything has to be really fought for at the moment.  Sadly community democracy is not well represented or fostered in the HCC.”

With new walkways, skate parks and community projects planned for this year, the board needs financial backing from the council, but this has been hard to come by, Mr Wilshere says.

“HCC funding policies and debt targets impose unreasonable budgetary control and the community’s needs suffer as a result.  It’s hard to say whether community boards will survive the next 10 years.”

Wainuiomata Community Board deputy chairman Karl Dickson is more concerned about how people see community boards than their relationship with the HCC.

He says that very few people in the town know they can have their views represented by a community board. This he blames for the very low numbers voting in each board election.

“There’s an increasing number of people who have either never heard of a community board or see it as an outdated model that needs to evolve.

“We have low turn-outs to meetings, low response to council consultations and low numbers of voters for the local body elections, which should be a wake-up call for the council.”

Mr Dickson says that if people cannot get their concerns through to the council effectively, Wainuiomata will not only be geographically separated but will struggle to operate under the council.

He is happy with how the council works in the area and promotes the town’s retail area, which currently has a row of empty shops.

“The work that councillors do is fantastic, but it’s opening the lines of communication between residents and the council that needs to change.”

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