Wilson, Scott top council attendance, Barker attends fewest

By Victoria White

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VOTERS DECIDE: Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson says constituents will tell you in the impending vote what's an acceptable level of absenteeism. PHOTO/WARREN BUCKLAND
VOTERS DECIDE: Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson says constituents will tell you in the impending vote what's an acceptable level of absenteeism. PHOTO/WARREN BUCKLAND

An acceptable level of absenteeism from council meetings for councillors is "what your constituents tell you in the upcoming vote", Hawke's Bay Regional chairman Fenton Wilson says.

Of all regional councillors over the past term, he and Napier representative Christine Scott had an almost perfect record of attendance. Ms Scott was absent from one committee meeting, and Mr Wilson one council workshop in the 2014/15 financial year.

Mr Wilson said in broad terms, meetings were where the council made their decisions.

"Regardless of what other work you do, you've still got to go and talk to your constituents and be accountable and available and all that stuff, but actually the real work's done around the council table," he said.

"That's where the decisions are made."

Although Hastings representative Rick Barker was the councillor who attended the lowest number of meetings overall, he said this could be skewed as he had a higher number to attend than some other councillors.

He attended a total 78 per cent of required council, and committee meetings, and council workshops in the past term.

However, Mr Barker said while he might have a lower percentage, he had more meetings to attend - while other councillors could have higher overall percentages, they could have attended fewer meetings.

"It's a matter of participation, and contribution," he said.

In the year to June he was involved in seven committees - as well as council. This meant the first term councillor had done "significantly more hours" in his role, which was not reflected in his overall total.

He said he had also done a substantial amount of work outside of meetings, citing involvement with the new park at Paikowhai, and the Waihi Dam situation. During the past year, Mr Barker had spent time in hospital, and had missed some meetings because of tangi, and funerals.

Mr Wilson said sometimes councillors did need to miss meetings due to illness, family tragedies, or having other jobs which were quite time consuming. He said there was no difference for an absenteeism for something unforseen, as opposed to a responsibility outside council.

When asked if there was an acceptable level for absences, Mr Wilson said, "The acceptable level is what your constituents tell you in the upcoming vote.

"It's actually up to individual choice, so to be part of the team you've got to be there basically, and it is a constant commitment," he said.

"There's no sort of acceptable level but I guess it comes down to what the voters are going to say at the end of the day."

He said it was a good message to regional council candidates that they needed to take into account the time needed for the role.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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