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City Council keeping the public out of its planning processes, says Federation

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The Federation of Wellington Progressive and Residents’ Associations told the Wellington City Council today that from the perception of its members and members of the public the Council has moved away from an openness and transparent mode to one that keeps the public out of its planning processes.

“We believe that the integrity of the Council … is at risk,” said Tom Law, the organisation’s secretary, speaking to the council’s strategy and policy committee.

“In the lead up to the last local body election, you all promised … to be more open, more transparent and to engage with the community better. [Yet] you still deal with things in public-excluded sessions and hold briefing sessions/workshops that are not publicised. There have been no changes.

“The Federation is concerned that the tools that enable meaningful consultation or public engagement …are not used. There appears to be an ethos in council not to engage with the public. To have a report presented to this committee where staff ask you to note that consultation with the public is not necessary, and then for you to agree to that, is an indictment on you as a committee and you individually as Councilors.

“The Federation has real concerns about your commitment as Councilors, and about council staff commitment to community engagement. That is why we again stand before you.

“Councilor Eagle, you have been given the portfolio of Community Engagement. This includes community engagement across the spectrum of portfolios. The Federation believes that you have been given a hospital pass. A pass that we hope doesn’t end you in the A & E ward at Wellington Regional Hospital. You clearly do not have the support of your colleagues, despite their promises.

“At staff level there is an officer, the Director of Community Engagement, who likewise appears to be in a position that is unsupported by Council staff and management, unable to do the job.

“What is needed? A change in the attitude of Council staff to engagement with the community and a change to the attitude of you folk around this table. The integrity of you all as councilors, as our representatives and council staff is in real jeopardy. Bring about your promises made to the people of Wellington a few months ago.”

Meaningful consultation is imperative, said the Federation’s treasurer Bernie Harris.

“It is … disconcerting to read Report 2 before you all today, in which 5.2 Weathertight Homes Funding proposes to ignore the requirements of sections 82 to 90 of the local government legislation regarding consultation, and particularly Special Consultation Procedures.

“Members of the FAR working party will be well aware that under their Terms of Reference, 1(a) draws attention to … the requirements of the Local Government Act … I quote section 102 (6): ‘A policy described in this section may be amended only as an amendment of the long term council community plan.’ Section 102 (4)(a) states that a local authority must adopt a revenue and finance policy, which Report 2 encompasses…

“Councillors are cautioned as to accepting this report without assurances that all legislative requirements are suitably incorporated.

“To continue our co-operative relationship with councillors and council officers, we can only reiterate our belief, expressed on many occasions since 2004, that the Revenue and Funding Policy be prepared independently to ensure political bias is avoided in determining both revenue and funding proportions of all council activities.

“In making this recommendation for independent objectivity with this policy, it is nevertheless in full accord with the separate portfolio leaders’ roles in regard to this policy.

“The FWPRA is happy to make its resources available to you and Council to assist in your engagement with the community of Wellington.”

1 comment:

  1. vryn evans, 8. March 2011, 11:06

    What’s new ? Local body governments throughout NZ are not known for their total public engagement unless it suits them. Our elected councillors must be held accountable – which they are not.