Community boards rue voting-right loss

JARED SMITH
Last updated 05:00 23/08/2012

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South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop spent yesterday fronting up to community boards demanding to know why he had taken their right to vote in the council's most important committee.

On August 13 Mr Dunlop used his casting vote in council to rescind the voting rights for the four community board representatives on STDC's policy development committee.

Patea Community Board chairman David Honeyfield slammed the decision and promised "repercussions".

While absent from yesterday's Patea meeting, his board members voted to inform council of their "extreme disappointment" and called for STDC to review the purpose of having the committee.

"We feel that [removing the vote] was overkill and we are very disappointed," said Ruth Mackay.

Shelley Dew-Hopkins, who sits on the committee, challenged Mr Dunlop or Hawera councillor Mike Powell to come up with examples where board members "stymied" the decision-making process by voting.

She knew of only one occasion, in July 2011, where councillors wanted to go into full decision-making mode on not introducing Maori wards but instead allowed the two present board members to vote.

Their votes did nothing to affect the final outcome decided by council later that month.

Ailsa Aiken said because the councillors who attend the Patea board live "out of town", it was important to have a fair say at council level.

Mr Dunlop stood by his decision, saying when members stood for election they could not have expected to make decisions for areas outside their ward.

Earlier in Opunake, Egmont Plains Community Board chairwoman Sharon Arlidge also told Mr Dunlop they were disappointed.

"Will we now have to leave when ‘pink papers' [confidential or public-sensitive information] come up?"

She said it was "degrading" to travel so far just to sit in for 20 minutes of open forum and have to leave when such matters were raised.

Mr Dunlop confirmed board members would stay for the entire committee meeting and have their say, just not vote.

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