17 July 2021

Just how are decisions made?

 Published in this week's Eastern Herald.

Councillors are elected because they are people who will act responsibly, have an interest in the Council area, working with people and problem solving.

We get voted into the job and we vote on every decision that needs to be made at Council.

I’d like to explore in this article what goes into making that decision.

Many matters are raised by residents, followed up my questions on notice, a motion on notice and then debated at Council.  But what evidence do we look for in making these decisions? At last month’s Council meeting we had three decisions that were likely to be contentious. The first was to progress a Sensory Garden (to be donated by a well-meaning Rotary club) to consultation and design following this consultation. We received maybe a dozen emails from residents aghast at the  concept and there were 20-25 residents at the meeting when there’s usually only a few. The alternate motion to not proceed was resoundly supported.

Later in the same evening we considered The Climate and Energy Plan for which there  were quite a  few submissions including one with 70+ signatures. When it came to debating the plan an alternate motion was put to Councillors that we had not had time to consider the implication of bringing forward Carbon neutrality to 2022 from the proposed 2030.  After much debate this motion was passed but not unanimously. I was taken aback that while we had all considered the people present, we had trouble determining the value of double that number when in a written submission.

Again, on the same evening we had to again vote on the number of elected members Council would have moving forward. We went out to consultation suggesting 10+1, two less that we now have. In the meantime, the parliament deleted a clause from legislation that would now allow 13 people on Council, so it was now legally possible to keep the status quo. With only a handful of representations (34) we made a decision to stay as we are. With just .12% of the ratepayers having a say we changed our minds even though the majority of these favoured a smaller Council. What would have been the result if the losing side had gathered a few friends to attend the meeting! The research is clear smaller council numbers made better decisions.

In recent decisions that have gone to consultation Council received 3 responses for The Budget, 21 for the Cultural Plan and 173 for The Living Well Plan. We need to generate more ways to make consultation authentic, informative if we are to make decisions based on the results.

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