Councillor defends presence

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 23/08/2012
Opinion poll

Should councillor Hamish Fraser have gone to the community board meetings?

Yes - if he's interested in what each community thinks, why shouldn't he?

No - he should have considered how his presence would be perceived.

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Timaru district councillor Hamish Fraser finds himself in an impossible situation: accused of attempting to intimidate community board members, when he says the only reason he attended this week's community board meetings was to hear the community's views.

He also had some options he hoped might give the boards more say in community affairs, but found himself stymied when board chairmen refused to let him speak.

Councillor and Temuka community board chairman Pat Mulvey has accused those councillors in favour of the district electing 10 councillors-at-large at next year's elections of attending this week's meetings with the aim of swaying the community boards' views.

One councillor is normally rostered to attend each meeting, but two have done so this week. Cr Fraser was rostered to attend the Temuka meeting, but chose to attend all three.

Rather than intimidate board members, he had hoped attending the meetings would have improved communication and given him a chance to hear their views, he said. He believed that was especially necessary as the council vote in favour of going to the at-large voting option was 6-5.

"It is common practice for the chair to invite you to be involved; it is conducive to healthy debate and reasoning."

Cr Fraser said he would have been happy to answer questions.

"I think the discussion was severely lacking; I would have been more than happy to talk about it."

Also with him at the Pleasant Point meeting was Cr Steve Earnshaw who has surveyed a number of councils on their experiences of electing councillors-at-large.

Among the responses received was one from the Wanganui District Council, which now gives community board chairmen speaking rights in the council chamber.

It had been his intention to suggest the community boards might like to ask the district council to look at such a setup. Such a system would give the community boards the authority, autonomy and representation he believed they should have.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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