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Tensions high on co-governance


Water pipe repair has been an ongoing issue in south Wairarapa. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Tensions ran high during discussions on co-governance last week as South Wairarapa councillors prepared their submission on the government’s Water Services Entities Bill.

The original draft document, which South Wairarapa councillor Rebecca Fox said was “a wee bit vanilla”, was updated line by line during a public meeting last week.

The final draft is yet to be released.

But councillors could not come to a unanimous agreement on what they wanted to submit regarding co-governance.

Councillor Alistair Plimmer abstained from voting on the submission after a heated back-and-forth with councillor Pip Maynard over the wording that should be used.

Plimmer said councillors should clearly indicate co-governance was the “single biggest stumbling block” in the legislation and the point that caused the most contention.

As per legislation, water services entities would have a two-tier governance structure: a regional representative group [RRG] and an independent, competency-based, professional board.

Half the members of the RRG would be appointed by councils and must be elected members or council chief executives.

They can also be senior council managers if they have the appropriate knowledge, skills, and experience.

The other half of the RRG would be mana whenua representatives through iwi and hapu appointments.

The role of the RRG is to set the strategic direction of the water services entity and appoint a professional board based on appropriate knowledge, skills, and experience.

The RRG also reviews the performance of the entity.

Plimmer said co-governance on the RRG was the “single biggest issue that people in our community are worried about, and we can’t avoid that”.

Maynard said the councillors should avoid taking a stance on co-governance until mana whenua had been properly consulted locally, which they hadn’t been, she said.

“With respect Pip, there are lots of different communities, but the people who are paying the rates, it is not iwi as a block. They’re iwi as individuals,” Plimmer said.

“The ratepayers I have spoken to and have feedback from say the co-governance model is the single biggest stumbling block in this.

“I’m sorry if that ruffles feathers, but that is the feedback I’m getting non-stop.”

In their submission, councillors initially agreed to say: “Councillors have mixed opinions on the governance model as presented”.

But by the end of the discussion, Plimmer requested more detail be added about the level of conflict on the issue in the community and around the council table.

“We are already saying councillors have mixed opinions,” Maynard said.

“I don’t know why you feel so strongly about putting in something, which means I will not vote for this document.”

Plimmer said: “I could say the exact same to you”.

At different points in the discussion, Plimmer and Maynard requested the other to stop interrupting them.

Plimmer said he respected Maynard’s position, “as I hope you respect mine – it doesn’t mean that we have to agree”.

“The fact that this discussion is occurring needs to be reflected in the document.”

Maynard said she was not interested in adding emotive words such as “conflict” into the submission document regarding co-governance.

She said she was “more than happy with the submission” as it stood.

Other councillors present, with the exception of Plimmer, voted to accept the full submission, which included “councillors have mixed opinions on the governance model as presented”.– NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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