John Dalziell. PHOTO/FILE
John Dalziell isn’t standing for Masterton District Council again and is telling people seeking to be a councillor for the first time it’s a frustrating job.
He said while he didn’t want to be dismissed as negative, when you are confronted by poor processes and missed opportunities to save money for ratepayers’ what are you supposed to do?
When he had made stands on issues in council meetings, he was largely not supported by other councillors.
During his term on council decisions were made in workshops and they should not have been, and money could have been saved if more competitive processes were held for council work, he said.
Money was saved on trimming trees on streets for a year but he had a battle to get it to happen and he was not sure what happened after that.
The library portacoms were years late and he attributed that to poor inhouse project management skills. The move to Waiata House took much longer than would have happened in the private sector.
Council officials have too many projects on, he said.
He’s not the only one who says that. It has been said at council meetings.
Dalziell said it was great young people were standing for council but he believed council needed people with governance experience, not just people who were popular in the community.
He said being a councillor was about holding council work to account on behalf of ratepayers.
Dalziell lamented that councillors received too many papers by email late at night before a meeting the next day and also moments before they discussed them at meetings, which was poor process.
Dalziell likes to write letters to himself and wrote one about an opinion piece by academic Jean Drage, “who do you want on your council”.
Drage wrote that of the “current lot” more than 80 per cent were over the age of 50 years. Women were elected to just over a third of available seats, Maori to 10 per cent and younger councillors, those under 40 years, only gained 6 per cent of council seats in 2016. The number of councillors representing other cultures was negligible.
Dalziell said the number of councillors needed to be reduced by 50 to 60 per cent so the pay could be increased and councillors could commit to the role.
“It seems that many councillors need to have one or two other paid roles and then there is conflict with time commitments between these roles. If you are paid by your ratepayers, then this should take priority over other employment. Unfortunately, in many cases this doesn’t happen”.
Elected councillors should have a limited time on councils, he said.
“It is more difficult to get voted on than be voted off. Time on council, name association and public profile seems to determine elections rather than any analysis of contribution.”
The main criteria for the role of councillor should be governance and accountability but skills in these things seemed to “run a distant second” when votes were cast.
He said control of assets was slowly being taken away from councils by central government and councils were effectively being downgraded to community boards.
“Being a councillor today is a far cry from councillors in years gone by and I don’t think the change has been recognised by our communities or councils,” he said.