A new climate change working party and increased Maori and independent representation are among key changes to the Northland Regional Council's freshly-agreed governance structure for the next three years.
In the aftermath of the last month's local body elections, one of the first issues newly-elected Northland councils must turn their collective minds to is what sort of committees, subcommittees and other groups they'll have – and who will chair them.
Council chair Penny Smart says legally the regional council must have – or be a member of – three committees:
• The Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group (a joint committee of all four councils in Northland)
• The Regional Transport Committee (made up of selected regional council members along with representatives of all three district councils and the NZ Transport Agency)
• Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē/Ninety Mile Beach Board (the regional council has two representatives on this board).
Smart says with four newcomers among the nine who make up the newly-elected regional council, the governance structure formally agreed to this week reflects the mix of fresh and experienced faces, as well as a chance to collectively address some existing and emerging issues over the next three years.
The council will also have a number of other governance bodies, including a climate change working party, chaired by new councillor Amy Macdonald. This working party will provide oversight on council's climate change activities and make recommendations on climate change matters.
Kaipara-based Smart, a second-term councillor, says the council will once again have a standalone Te Taitokerau Maori and Council Working Party (TTMAC), which this term will be made up of 21 Maori representatives nominated by tangata whenua from around Northland. All regional councillors will also be members of the working party.
However, in a change from the previous administration, the new council will also include five TTMAC members on its water and land working party and four TTMAC members on the new climate change working party, biosecurity and biodiversity working party and planning and regulatory working party.
"Effectively, that means there will be equal numbers of Maori members and councillors on our working parties, providing a more effective opportunity for Maori to participate in council decision making processes. In line with standard local government practice, as overall council chair I'll be an additional, ex-officio member of all council committees and working parties."
Other governance bodies over the next three years will include an audit and risk subcommittee as well as an investment and property subcommittee.
"The new council will have three independent advisor positions across these two key subcommittees to provide expert, independent opinion to ensure we have the best information possible on which to base our decisions - as well as providing a solid foundation of expert advice in specialist areas."
The joint Whangarei District-Northland Regional Councils' Whangarei public transport working party will once again be providing oversight on the city's public transport issues in a bid to increase patronage and oversee the integration of city and district planning on public transport issues.
A full list of the council's governance structure, its members – and what each body does – can be found online via www.nrc.govt.nz/committees