Mayor pushes external postings

Unelected professionals will sit on two Nelson City Council committees and have full voting rights under a proposal from Mayor Rachel Reese.

She said the council decided when it formed on October 29 last year to include external non-elected voices on its committees to bring specialised and professional perspectives to the table.

Under the Local Government Act councils can appoint non-elected members.

Local Government New Zealand today said it was up to each local authority to decide whether or not appointees could have voting rights or not.

Reese told the council yesterday it would be "tokenism" to have the external appointments without voting rights and said the ratio was still heavily weighted to elected members.

A staff report on the policy to councillors did not discuss the issue of voting rights. But Reese said the council had agreed to this when it had formed its structure last year with four committees.

The council may look for someone with "a Maori world view" to join the planning and regulatory committee. Following this year's top of the south treaty settlements, it would be a bonus to have such expertise to help councillors navigate the settlement.

The other two external appointments are proposed for the governance committee.

Reese said it was normal for councils to appoint external members with voting rights.

A Tasman District Council spokesman said it had no external appointments on its committees.

Councillor Mike Ward said he supported the positions, but where power had been delegated from the council to the committee to make decisions, the appointees needed to be consistent with the elected committee members.

Councillor Pete Rainey asked whether it would be better to hire professional advice when it was needed rather than have non-elected members appointed with voting powers if their votes were going to be the same as the elected committee members anyway.

Deputy Paul Matheson said the governance committee had to deal with quite an intense workload and expertise from appointees would help.

Councillor Ruth Copeland voted against the policy and questioned the value of having two more "professional" voices on the governance board that was already, in her view, bureaucratic and at times narrow-minded in its approach.

She called for alternative views, not just those with specific professional views such as accountants or lawyers.

Each appointed member will be paid $12,000 a year to attend and participate in meetings as the council wanted to attract a "high calibre of applicants" and had set the payments from looking at other authorities and councillor salaries.

Of the $37,500 estimate to pay for external experts, $6400 had been budgeted and another $31,100 would need to be added to the coming year's annual plan.

The Nelson Mail