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Saturday, 28 February 2009

WAIHEKE COMMUNITY BOARD IS BREAKING THE LAW

Everyone elected to a local government office in New Zealand has to go through a formal swearing-in at which he or she must make the statutory promise set down in the Local Government Act 2002. For every member of the Waiheke Community Board that is: 'I, [name], declare that I will faithfully and impartially, and according to the best of my skill and judgement, execute and perform, in the best interests of Waiheke, the powers, authorities, and duties vested in, or imposed upon, me as a member of the Waiheke Community Board by virtue of the Local Government Act 2002, the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, or any other Act.'

That is, or is meant to be, a legally binding promise to the community. Therefore board members who in any issue fail to be faithful and impartial, who fail to act according the best of their individual skill and judgement, who fail to act in the best interests of the Waiheke Community are not just doing badly, they are breaking the law. They are in breach of the Local Government Act 2002 (and could be prosecuted).

Over the last twenty years the Waiheke Community Board has considered many issues, small, medium and large. In very many of them it has done brilliantly. The present Board is no exception. When it is on song and acting as should it does superbly well.

But over the last year or so it has been faced with the biggest issue that has ever come before it, the biggest issue that ever could come before it: Which is the best council for this community? Which of the two councils available, Auckland City Council or Thames-Coromandel District Council provides the best in local government, particularly for village-rural-island communities? That is the question posed by the application to the Local Government Commission (LGC) in which it has been asked to make a boundary-change, which if successful would transfer us from Auckland City Council to Thames-Coromandel District Council. That is a very serious question. The answer will affect the lives of islanders for a long time.

What was the Community Board's response? Did it do an exhaustive comparative analysis of the two councils so that it would know with certainty which is the best, and would be able to say so confidently to the community? No. It did the abject opposite. By majority vote it has twice voted to disassociate itself from anything to do with the application to the LGC, and now by majority it has voted to make a submission opposing it. In all that it has broken the law, because it has not been faithful and served the community according to statute; it has been partial not impartial because it refused to consider any option except Auckland; it has not exercised any skill and judgement at all, let alone its best, because it has done no investigation--nothing--certainly not the exhaustive research needed to establish which council is best and is best for our community. Therefore it cannot have acted in the community's best interests, because it has no idea which option is best. And it has not carried out the detailed analysis required by the Local Government Act 2002, so it cannot say anything about this issue that can have any validity under the laws of New Zealand--laws put there to ensure that we get the best in local government.

It has in effect said to the community, 'We don't care if you have the best council or not, because we are not going to look for the best on your behalf. As far as we are concerned you will be staying with Auckland, no matter whether it is good, bad or mediocre.'

Therefore in this great issue five of its six members have turned their statutory promise into a lie. They have broken faith with the Waiheke community. They have acted in contempt of it.

..

Now, even if they had the will to, and they don't, they cannot do the vast amount of research needed to act in this matter as the Local Government Act 2002 demands, because there is not enough time before the deadline set under the Act. They have to do analyses under at least four areas of it, and huge amounts of information must be gathered from many sources in both councils, both documentary and live witnesses. That takes a long time. They have only a fraction of what is necessary. So anything they do now can be no more than cursory, and therefore will fall well below the best of their skill and judgement. In this most important issue they have not worked in the best interests of the community according to the Act; now they cannot.