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Communities of Interest and Community Boards - what are they?

Community of Interest

The Local Government Commission takes the following view:

"… that a community of interest is the area to which one feels a sense of belonging and to which one looks for social, service and economic support. Geographic features and the roading network can affect the sense of belonging to an area. The community of interest can often be identified by access to the goods and services needed for everyday existence …"

Historically, communities of interest have been readily identified by access to services. In earlier years County Towns were a feature of local government in the Manawatu area delivering reserves and road maintenance among other services, at the local level. With advances in technology and economies of scale these services are now integrated across the District. Ease of movement around the District and centralisation of retail and other key services in the Feilding town centre have changed the way we view our community.

In its day to day operations the Council uses a wider view of the definition of community of interest than solely a geographical one. Some examples of communities with which the Council liaises are tangata whenua, through the Marae consultative committee known as “Ngā Manu Tāiko Manawatū District Council”. The focus of this committee is to ensure that all Māori of the Manawatu District are represented, and that Council is liaising with the people who have mana whenua. The Council also agreed to establish a Māori Ward for electoral purposes to enhance Māori participation in Council decision making. Other examples of communities the Council liaises with are the Arts, Health, Environmental Interest, Sports, Older Persons, Younger Persons through the Manawatu Youth Ambassadors and Business communities.

Community Boards

Community boards were created by the local government reforms in 1989.

A community board is an elected body that works at a grass-roots level in the specific geographic area that they represent, termed a "community of interest".

Many of the community boards that were created throughout New Zealand replaced the Borough Councils that were disestablished during the 1989 reforms. These community boards kept an overview of such things as the water and sewerage systems, libraries, community facilities within their specific community of interest.

What does a community board do?

The role of a community board is to:

  • Represent, and act as an advocate for, the interests of its community; and
  • Consider and report on all matters referred to it by the territorial authority, or any matter of interest or concern to the community board; and
  • Maintain an overview of services provided by the territorial authority within the community; and
  • Prepare an annual submission to the territorial authority for expenditure within the community; and
  • Communicate with community organisations and specific interest groups within the community; and
  • Undertake any other responsibilities that are delegated to it by the territorial authority.

Powers and function of Community Boards

Community Boards are not autonomous bodies. Their functions, duties and powers are delegated to them by the Council. They must operate within governing legislation, including processes contained in the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 as well as the Local Government Act 2002.

Usually community boards advise their Council of local concerns, overview any works and services in their area, make submissions in terms of their local needs and priorities for the Council’s Long Term Plans and establish contacts with local organisations and groups. They can work as the Council’s communication link with the local community, for example by providing a public forum opportunity at community board meetings where members of the community can come to speak about any issues.

Cost of Community Boards

The rules for payment of salaries and expenses to elected members, including community board members, are set by the Remuneration Authority. The remuneration level set for each community board is linked to the population the board serves and the Chairperson’s salary is set at twice that of a board member. As an indication, the members of a community board of a similar sized Council to Manawatu District Council are paid $6,046 each per year and the Chairperson of this Board is paid $12,092 per year. The funding for community board salaries comes from rates.

There would be some additional administrative costs in providing support to community boards that relate to support for the meetings, for example preparing and distributing agendas for the meetings, attending and minuting the meetings, and additional officer time in preparing reports for the meetings. There could also be a small cost to pay for the meeting venues, depending on where Community Boards decided to hold their meetings within their respective communities.

Questions to ponder

  • How do you define your community of interest?
  • Are there any changes you’d like to see made to the current governance arrangements?
  • Do you think Manawatu District Council should have community boards?
  • If yes, should they cover the whole district or just those communities that want them?
  • If community boards are established, what should they do?

Continue reading...

Process for feedback

The feedback period has now ended.

Formal consultation with the community on Council’s initial proposal will take place from 2 August 2018 to 3 September 2018. Council will then consider any issues raised through submissions prior to deciding on its final representation proposal in October 2018.