Greg Sayers, Beth Houlbrooke, Danielle Hancock
A move by Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers to get Auckland Council to look into altering the Rodney Local Board subdivisions (MM, Nov 18) has prompted a war of words between Council staff and the Board.
The first sign that at least some Board members were unhappy with Cr Sayers working with the Northern Action Group (NAG) on the proposal came at November’s Board meeting. During the usually automatic receipt of Cr Sayers’ monthly report, Kumeu member Danielle Hancock said she had checked the October-November report and found three errors and omissions in it, including that there was no mention of his meeting with NAG.
She moved two resolutions – a) that errors and omissions in the report be corrected and resubmitted at the December Board meeting and b) that Cr Sayers provided “meeting attendance information to demonstrate whether meetings were attended, apologies tendered or absent, and all meetings with Rodney community representatives, included along with a brief description of the topic of the meeting”.
“We’re accepting this as a true and accurate record,” Ms Hancock said. “It’s something that would be helpful. This is only highlights.”
However, in a subsequent email to Rodney Local Board democracy adviser Robyn Jones and Cr Sayers, councillor support team leader Cecily Dower said Council staff advised that resolution b) should be revoked by the Board, as it breached its delegated authority.
“A simple request to the councillor would have been an acceptable, more courteous and more professional approach,” she said.
She also said any errors had been corrected – “although a simple request rather than a resolution would have achieved the same outcome” – and pointed out that Cr Sayers had only communicated with NAG via phone and email. Cr Sayers said Council staff quickly picked up that resolution b) was outside their delegation.
“I think it says it all,” he said. “It will be interesting to see if the RLB revokes resolution b). My monthly report is a voluntary report, not a compulsory requirement, but I provide it for the Local Board’s information to be helpful.”
Meanwhile, Board deputy chair Beth Houlbrooke has come out swinging against the proposed boundary changes, saying they are gerrymandering, divisive and show a complete lack of awareness of appropriate priorities in Council’s current financial situation.
“Boundaries are largely arbitrary for the business of the Local Board, they are only strictly adhered to for electoral voting purposes,” she said. “So gerrymandering boundaries to get more ‘rural representation’ would still require those rural representatives to support the Board’s projects and programmes in urban centres as prioritised by those communities.
“The repeated use of language around urban and rural communities is unnecessarily divisive and separatist, when we should all be working together as one inclusive community, with the best of both worlds for each.”
Ms Houlbrooke pointed out that eight of the nine Local Board members already lived rurally, on tank water and septic systems, and four lived on gravel roads.
“They are already rural representatives,” she said.
She added that the issues the proposal sought to address were mainly about sealing roads, road maintenance and drainage.
“None of these are responsibilities of the Local Board. They are all governing body responsibilities. For that reason it may be more appropriate for any proposal to request a rural councillor instead,” she said.
“Our current councillor not only does not live rurally, he does not live in the ward!”
Ms Houlbrooke said NAG and Cr Sayers’ efforts would be more usefully directed in lobbying Council for recommended changes to the Rodney Board detailed in its 2017 organisational review, which included better communication of the roles of the Board versus the governing body; improved communications about how Council was looking after Rodney in general; and increasing the road sealing budget.