Activist community

Bid to introduce Hamilton Community Councils rejected

Hamilton's representative arrangement for the next term will include 12 ward councillors, two Maori ward councilors and the mayor (file photo)

Tom Lee / Stuff

Hamilton’s representative arrangement for the next term will include 12 ward councillors, two Maori ward councilors and the mayor (file photo)

No to community councils in Hamilton – yet.

The Local Government Commission has rejected a call to create four community councils in the city in time for local elections this year.

However, the commission encouraged city leaders not to rule out boards of directors or other “alternative models” in the future.

The City Council pledged in May to establish two Maori wards and will switch to the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system this election, replacing the First Past the Post (FPP) system.

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The decision to create two Maori wards in Kirikiriroa sparked a wider review of representation, with the council voting against establishing community councils. Instead, elected officials decided to consider testing two community committees after the 2022 election.

This decision was appealed by the Waikato community who sought to have community councils established in the four most deprived areas of Hamilton.

The Local Government Commission upheld Hamilton City Council's decision not to set up community councils (file photo)

Christel Yardley / Stuff

The Local Government Commission upheld Hamilton City Council’s decision not to set up community councils (file photo)

Holly Snape, chief executive of Community Waikato, said one of the drivers of her appeal was the fact that people generally don’t engage with the council, finding it a daunting experience.

Community councils are working successfully elsewhere and would fill a gap in encouraging “village democracy”, Snape said.

“We want community councils to be that real mechanism for strengthening communities through active neighborhood engagement. Truly understand the nuances of a problem [at a] neighborhood level and respond appropriately becomes impossible as our city grows,” Snape told the Local Government Commission during an online hearing in March.

In its decision, the commission said it was unclear whether a community council model was best suited to meet the broader goals of the caller, Community Waikato.

“The impression we got was that what is desired is a fairly militant and advocacy-based model,” the commission wrote.

“The council could have a role to play in facilitating this, but we believe it may be worth considering alternative models as well as community councils. We strongly suggest that the Board consider these in conjunction with its review of community committees.

An appeal from Jason Howarth, proposing alternative arrangements for wards and council members, was not upheld by the commission.