What's holding the Wanaka Community Board back?

by Quentin Smith - Sep 13, 2019

As local elections approach, there's been plenty of rhetoric surrounding the Wanaka Community Board - namely around how much power they are given to make change. Board Chairman Quentin Smith provides some clarity on the workings of the WCB, how it has changed, and what improvements are still needed. 

There has been a fair bit of criticism during this election campaign about the function of the Wanaka Community Board and I think it fair to say that the board at times are equally frustrated.  The board is made up of strong community focused people who are desperate to represent their community.  Every one of them has been a strong and active representative of the communities they represent.  

I don’t think that the current WCB has enjoyed the same level of support or assistance that some Wanaka boards have enjoyed in the past.  Equally there are some issues that are appropriately dealt with by the Council with a district wide lens or that have legal limits of influence for the board.  There are also issues facing the board that should have a greater level of oversight from Council as a whole where we are left to fend for ourselves.  

One candidate has pointed to a structure of past where there was effectively an administrator that assisted the board day to day, and even a Wanaka based Ward Manager which was clearly empowering for those boards.  Beyond the governance support for formal meetings and agendas, the current board hasn’t had ready access to these types of resources.  

In reality there are few limits on what can be brought to the board to be considered. This is in part up to the Council's Chief Executive as to what reports he instructs staff to prepare and bring to the board, and what resources are made available. The board and the Chair can request issues be brought up and often they are supported in doing so, but in some cases not.  While we can help determine the "agenda” we can't make the reports written and budget allocated without the support of the executive. Both myself and the previous Chair, Rachel Brown, have fought hard to make the board more effective and relevant and enable it to do the job it is voted in to do. 

For me personally, having moved from a community board seat to council seat two years ago, I have enjoyed a significantly greater opportunity to discuss, influence and make decisions on important matters around the Council table compared to the WCB.  While the board is not designed to deal with all matters of Council it certainly can and should have a useful role in working through local issues in the Upper Clutha and making locally informed recommendations to Council, and it should have greater opportunity to do that.   

The terms of reference and the delegations of the WCB in reality are relatively powerful in my opinion, possibly better than most community boards. The issue is probably largely how the board is supported, empowered and perceived by the organisation as a whole. There is plenty of scope within the current terms of reference to make the WCB far more effective and representative of the community and the current issues it faces.  If it was required to be changed, the Terms of Reference are agreed at the beginning of the term between the board and the Mayor and CE and the delegations are considered by the new council.

 I would like to see the next board, in whatever configuration is delivered by the voters, used to greater effect by council beyond the basic business we often see such as road naming, reserve easements, licenses and minor improvements.  

You can find the TOR below.  

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