Submission to Select Committee on Auckland Governance
Waiheke Community Radio Trust
Retaining and Strengthening Community Boards in the Hauraki Gulf Islands
The Waiheke Community Radio Trust is a charitable trust operating a not-for-profit community radio station on Waiheke Island. As per the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance’s original recommendation, we strongly support the retention of a Waiheke Community Board. We believe this board should have the ability to make budgetary decisions on local island matters that fall within the broad areas currently under the governance of local government including infrastructure, services, arts and culture and community support.
The Waiheke Community Radio Trust and our twenty five volunteers, listeners, sponsors, and the Waiheke community at large have benefited greatly from the support of the Waiheke Community Board and the local councilor for the Hauraki Gulf. This support has been significant in the setting up and running of our radio station, Waiheke Radio. The board supported us in the process of obtaining an appropriate venue, in the funding of station infrastructure, and have provided funding for an educational initiative to upskill members of the community in creating digital audio content.
This relationship has been facilitated because local representatives are accessible to the community of Waiheke and understand the needs of Waiheke people. As members of the Waiheke community itself, local community board members shared our view that while wider Auckland was well served by a range of radio stations, there were a number of needs unique to the island that could only be met by a local community broadcaster. We are not confident that such decisions would be made without a strong local governance body and we therefore support the retention and strengthening of the Waiheke Community Board in the new Auckland governance model.
We believe that it is crucial that the political structure of the Auckland Region continues to retain strong local input into local issues. The current system of democratically elected Community Boards is important as a means of addressing local community needs and issues. To have real decision making power the Community Board must have some budgetary control, not merely be a group making recommendations to a higher body. It is important that local communities have the ability to make some funding decisions at local level to support and resource valuable community initiatives, such as the Waiheke Community Board’s support of the Waiheke Community Radio Trust which provides both a service and means of community engagement to local people.
We feel strongly that there needs to be capacity for decision making that is based on local knowledge and the ability to directly act on this rather than just making recommendations. Given that the current proposal for Auckland governance will mean Waiheke would be unlikely to have specific representation on Auckland Council we believe the powers and funding of the Waiheke Community Board should be significantly greater under the new model than they currently are at present, or are suggested to be in the future.
The diversity of communities that make up an expanded Auckland will play a significant part in creating a world class city. The island communities of Auckland are a unique feature of this landscape, and it needs to be recognised that with this uniqueness comes distinct interests and concerns that may differ from those of mainland communities (e.g. geographic isolation, transport, lack of easy access to wider Auckland facilities and activities, etc). In setting the geographic boundaries for the community boards under the new model we feel that the unique and specific needs of the Gulf Island communities needs to continue to be recognised. Boundaries should accommodate this by allowing for a range of board configurations that would include stand alone Waiheke and Great Barrier community boards rather than applying a population based formula that could group Waiheke with part of the Auckland isthmus.
The Royal Commision identified “poor community engagement” as one of the systemic problems with the existing local government arrangements. The establishment of community radio on Waiheke Island with the unanimous support of our local community board demonstrated great vision in supporting the grass roots development of a valuable community asset and public service. Our volunteer run community radio is actually continuing to strengthen on Waiheke many of the very aspects that the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance identified as a weakness in the larger surrounding governance structures. Community radio on Waiheke increases engagement by residents with the communities’ and the cities significant issues and concerns. The station also facilitates participation by the general public, community leaders, and elected local (and national) officials around local issue impacting residents of the Gulf Islands.
The Waiheke Community Radio Trust has been better able to meet our objectives of educating, engaging and informing Waiheke people because of the support of our local Community Board and councilor. It is questionable whether we would have been able to establish our radio station without their assistance. There is nowhere else that Waiheke Islanders can hear debates on Waiheke issues, nowhere else they will hear local musical artists get airplay. We believe it is critical our community continues to have a governance body that can recognise and act to meet local needs in the way our current community board has. Under the governance model proposed by government we see a critical need for these powers enhanced with the board having the ability to make budgetary decisions on local matters including infrastructure, services, arts and culture and community support.
Chris Walker & Brent Simpson – Trustees of Waiheke Community Radio Trust
Shirin Brown – Waiheke Radio volunteer