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Thursday, 7 May 2009

EVEN SHORTCHANGED ON OUR MINUTES

During one of the visits I made to Thames-Coromandel District Council last year I went through some of the many reports available to the public in the foyer, which include the minutes of various meetings, from council meetings to community board meetings, and I was again struck by the contrast between Auckland's way of doing things and Thames-Coromandel's.

Auckland's minutes record the resolutions passed, reports received from staff and board members, written presentations made by people in the community, and correspondence received. Nothing else.

Thames-Coromandel's do all that too of course, but they also summarise the discussions that took place. So anyone who reads their minutes can see what happened and how it happened. They are therefore true minutes--a faithful record minute by minute.

Auckland's are not, so when its meetings pass a resolution saying that the minutes of the previous meeting are a true and correct record, they are wrong because they are only an abbreviated summary. Which is why I now always vote against that motion.

So in spite of its self-vaunted size Auckland cannot do nearly as good a job with 2300 staff as Thames-Coromandel does with 192, not even keeping minutes. Auckland also has an entire department ('Democracy Services') to handle council and community-board meetings. Thames-Coromandel doesn't.

Auckland forever skites that it is the biggest local body in New Zealand, and the second biggest in Australasia, but that does not make it the best, or the best for the Hauraki Gulf Islands. Quantity is not quality. It is easy to be bigger. You just hire more people. To be good you have to hire good people and have good management and good organisation. The overall quality of staff in Thames is noticeably higher than in Auckland's sprawling empire.

Thames-Coromandel also puts reports on consent applications near the top of community-board agendas, and it has senior staff in attendance at board meetings as a matter of course, and lists them in the minutes, which underlines the co-operative, freely communicative working relationship between the elected and the employed on the peninsula--yet another stark contrast with aloof Auckland, where the code of conduct prevents councillors from talking to any staff but the CEO (and Democracy Services).