I thought Claude’s comment to Marks posting was worth promoting to an article in its own right. [ed]
Thanks, Mark, for limb climbing and the subsequent good analysis.
My own sense is that the old left and right wing labels don’t apply on Waiheke. After about two years, regardless of ones national politics, Love Waiheke becomes the primary partisan theme. No matter what ones offshore politics, it is the character, beauty, community and essence of the island that captures people, and protection of that is what they look for in candidates.
On all three foreshore issues of the day, the A-Team seemed to be offsides with the mood of the populace. Why? The council officers load the elected local board with issues in massive notebooks that then become the subject matter for the Local Board. The A-Team was undoubtedly good at navigating the officers’ waters, but those are often seen as alien to folks who live on the island. The foreshore issues were not officers’ priorities, thus the last local board did not take the advocacy role the populace was expecting.
During my presentation to the Royal Commission on the Supercity, I got into a fascinating conversation with the Commission’s Chair Peter Salmon about the apparent absence of checks and balances in NZ governance. He agreed, but unfortunately except for some additional powers for the Mayor, local checks and balances did not make it into the enabling legislation.
The problem with the way Local Boards are structured is that they appear to be democratic representatives of the electorate, but in fact their roles are tightly prescribed, in essence to be there to give approval to officer-driven agendas within a very limited sphere of influence. If one plays the game, the officers use their discretion (which is considerable) to help the elected representatives get points on the board. If not, they can cut off the flow of background information and make accomplishing anything very difficult. I know, I’ve seen it in action under the prior City Council. The problem is not the personnel, it’s the structure that shapes how the people behave.
The A-Team, lead by Faye, who has been in the game a long time, played within the rules, played the officers’ game, and this appeared to the electorate as non-responsive.
The challenge for the Essentially Waiheke team will be to press for fundamental structural changes to implement real democratic engagement in governance, or resort to the old Bruce Bisset style of politics, in which he browbeat the officers into tears. I favour the former, and given the strong mandate of the election results, I think they have a chance to actually accomplish it.
It promises to be a very interesting three years, but will require the four new members get up to speed very rapidly. The undercurrents of real council governance and management may be hard to see, but they are strong and can be dangerous to navigate.