Worries About Kāpiti Democracy

Councillor deplores secrecy on local govt. changes

By Alan Tristram

The only outspoken Councillor on the storm-tossed Kāpiti Coast Council — Cr. K Gurunathan — has told the Kāpiti Independent he’s worried about council secrecy over plans for ‘Big Government’ in the Wellington region.

Cr.  Gurunathan (Guru) hints that public confidence and trust in the KCDC is already at an all-time low.

And he says its representatives on the Regional Governance Working Party must be more open and give the public more information.Guru states: “The Kāpiti community needs to put Council’s representatives to the Working Party on public notice to provide better transparency on the processes they are using to investigate options for any proposed governance.”

Revelation by staff

“I make this call following the revelation by staff at the latest council meeting that the Working Party had adopted ‘a series of principles shaping their discussions.’ The staff report did not identify what these principles were”.

“These were read out only after the matter was raised during question time,” the councillor says.

“These principles are critical benchmarks underpinning the Working Party’s approach, but they have not been mandated by the all the elected members of the Kapiti Coast District Council and more importantly the public do not know what these principles are.”

Transparency and public confidence

Cr. Gurunathan says: “Transparency and public confidence in the Working Party can only be secured if the Kapiti community know what these principles are, accept them and be able to use them as benchmarks to measure any future proposals of the Working Party.

“I am sure the communities of the other participating councils in Porirua and Wellington are demanding the same transparency from their representatives to the Working Party. If they are not, they should.”

The issue of public trust

He concludes by saying that in Kāpiti ‘the issue of public confidence and trust in the council process is at an all time high’ and so it may be advisable for Kapiti’s representatives to the Working Party to table these principles at the next council meeting for them to be discussed and mandated.

Yet again the tail (council staff and Mayor) seems to be wagging the dog (people of Kapiti)

Council needs to stop acting like trustees and start acting like elected representatives.
Knowing somethings wrong and doing nothing is criminal IMO.

It is interesting that Kapiti Independent News has read my statement as a concern over “secrecy”. Secrecy, as used in this instance, gives the impression of doing something that is not in the interest of those kept in the dark. In this case, that is not a proven fact. Councillors were given the impression by staff that one principle adopted by the Working Party was a bottom-up process supportive of grassroots democracy.

The communities of the Wellington region, need to know this to be a fact. This is especially so in Kapiti where, as in the controversial water meters issue and now the coastal erosion issue, the council has been seen as adopting a we-know-whats-good-for-the-people attitude. People resent that. So the public need to know what these “principles” are otherwise how can the Working Party’s deliberations on the people’s behalf be a bottom-up process supportive of grassroots democracy?

But KIN is right that the issue of transparency and trust is at an all time high. That’s why the public automatically believe the worse of KCDC even when it may not be true. We in council have to go that extra mile to regain that trust. It has become an uphill task.