Woeful Waikanae – One Left Standing From The Original Community Board / And The State Of Local Govt In Kāpiti

Jeremy Smith looks at the sad state of local democracy in Waikanae, where three-quarters of the Community Board have gone since the laat election.

He says by the end of the year KCDC has to decide on the shape of its wards and and if it will keep the community boards for next year’s council elections.

But Jeremy asks whether the churn in the membership of the Waikanae Community  Board will over-shadow the discussions.

Three gone, one left standing

 Three gone, one left standing: that’s the count for the Waikanae Community Board members elected in 2019.

Current chair and former board member James Westbury easily topped the poll. Second was Waikanae Watch publisher Geoffrey Churchman.

The other two incoming board members were Margaret Stevenson Wright and Jill Griggs.

Waikanae voters seemed to be interested in who got on their board. The turnout, just short of 50 per cent, was the highest of the four community boards.

Churchman was the first to go.
Mr Churchman resigned in August last year after the Waikanae ward councillor, and board member, Jocelyn Prvanov raised a vote of no confidence in him.
Churchman had authored a blog which called five female councillors, including Prvanov, as “female concubines of Kapiti Mayor Gurunathan”.

Geoffrey Churchman

Later, Churchman gave his reasons   (Waikanae Watch Editor Explains Why He Resigned From Community Board Kapiti Independent News August 20, 2020).

Shortly afterwards a second member, Jill Griggs, also resigned. 

Griggs, a former senior civil servant, said there were “better ways to use her skills in the community than by being a local politician.” She said it had nothing to do with Churchman’s resignation.

Two new board members

The resignations led to the election of two new board members — local business identity Richard Mansell and a former board member,Tonchi Begovich.

 Then last month deputy chair Margaret Stevenson Wright announced her resignation.  She has not publicly commented on her reasons.

On the face of this, the proposal that KCDC get shot of its community boards seems to make sense, at least for Waikanae.

However the chair of the Paraparaumu-Raumati Community Board has written in KIN of the value of the board in her area. See ‘Save Our Community Boards”, September 22, below —

Members have made their views clear

And members of the other two boards, Otaki and Paekakariki have made their views clear on keeping the boards — they can be summed up as “no way-Jose”.

If the councillors decide to keep only the two “book-end boards”  at either end of the district it still leaves the problem of Waikanae, the second largest ward by population.

The proposal as it stands will see Waikanae voters incorporated into a central ward with Paraparaumu electing three councillors between them next year.

Assume only one of those is a Waikanae resident. Is that sufficient to represent the fastest growing area of the Kapiti Coast? What if none of the three is from Waikanae?

 The counter argument is that the five at-large councillors can contribute. That’s true, and they do. But the five ward councillors also do that as they always have done.

The Councillors’ job

The briefing notes to councillors included the following:

“Overwhelmingly, people believe it is the job of councillors to reach out to understand the district, not the responsibility of people to make themselves known and heard.”

The councillors do reach out. But the voting turn-out figures for Kapiti, and many other councils, run below fifty percent.

And local councillors have been coming to terms with the drop in the latest satisfaction index– people are not as happy as they were with the council performance. That’s not unique to Kapiti or even New Zealand.

So behind the discussion on the future shape of Kapiti’s representation is the big question, which starts at the most local citizen level — how you bridge the gap between them and us.

To make it clear, the piece of satire in question was not written by me, it was from a person who has also written several pieces for Kapiti Independent. However, the fuss over that was a smokescreen — what council CEO Mr Maxwell and Mayor Gurunathan really didn’t like was a piece I did write about the toxic culture of bullying that both created and which Prvanov is part of — although she is not the worst offender. There was also the question of what I was able to contribute and achieve in such a toxic environment, basically it was very limited and I felt there were better things I could do with my time.

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