Meetings' agendas 'shallow'

By Amy McGillivray

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Anne Gilmer
Anne Gilmer

A Bay of Plenty Regional councillor says numerous council meetings which chew up large parts of the day and achieve little are the cause of his low attendance rate.

Figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times show some councillors missed more than a fifth of the meetings they were expected to attend during the past three years.

Bay of Plenty Regional councillor Jim Mansell was one of those. He and fellow councillor Neil Oppatt had the lowest attendance rate of the regional councillors on 77 per cent.

The Opotiki-based councillor, who attended 71 of the 92 meetings he was required to attend, said he had to drive the farthest of the 13 councillors to make it to meetings.

"Some of the agendas are so shallow on their content. You might have a two-hour agenda in Rotorua with nothing of substance and then you might have a two-hour agenda the next day with nothing of substance," he said. "I'm not driving all the way to Rotorua for a two hour meeting with nothing of substance and then driving there the next day.

They need to back-to-back them." Western Bay of Plenty District councillor Anne Gilmer, who has been diagnosed with a kidney disease, missed the most meetings across all three councils, with an attendance rate of 66 per cent. Fellow councillors Don Thwaites sat on 77 per cent and Mike Williams on 78 per cent.

Ms Gilmer said her low attendance rate was due to a diagnosis of nephrotic syndrome, the rare kidney disease Jonah Lomu suffers from, part way through the term.

"I was in and out of hospital and different things like that," she said. "If I'd known I was going to be like I was I wouldn't have stood."

Tony Christiansen was the lowest of the Tauranga City councillors with an attendance rate of 85 per cent. He missed 34 of the 230 full council, committee and sub-committee meetings he was expected to attend.

Mr Christiansen said looking after his elderly parents and keeping up his profile as a public speaker meant he was unable to make meetings from time to time.

"This year I actually only missed four meetings because of speaking commitments and two of those were because I had flight delays and couldn't get back," he said. "I try very hard to make sure I plan around council engagements."

Mr Christiansen said he also sat on 10 taskforces and had attended another 148 meetings, which were not counted, during the last term.

Western Bay of Plenty District councillor Garry Webber had the highest attendance rate of all at 99 per cent which reflected a work ethic he had always had, he said.

"I'm employed by the ratepayers of the Western Bay of Plenty District Council and I believe they have the right to as much time as you can give."

David Stewart and Terry Molloy had the highest attendance rates of Tauranga City councillors at 98 per cent and agreed attendance was very important as it was what councillors were paid to do.

"The decision making is what council is all about. It's the business end of council. That's where councillors make a difference," Mr Stewart said. "If you are on the council you have to make time to attend these meetings."

Ian Noble had the highest rate of Bay of Plenty Regional councillors with 96 per cent attendance at meetings he was expected to be at.

"If you're not there you can't make a contribution," he said.

Chairman John Cronin went to 129 meetings all together but missed 11 of the 81 meetings where his attendance was required.

For a full list of attendance rates of your councillors, visit www.bayofplentytimes.co.nz

- Bay of Plenty Times

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