"It's time to admit the system doesn't work and seek a new solution. The world long ago started rejecting layers of middle management and this is another example of an unnecessary barrier between the public and the decision makers."
That's one of the parting shots of Tūrangi-Tongariro Community Board chairwoman Amanda Maclaren, who this week unexpectedly resigned from the board.
Ms Maclaren said her abrupt departure came for a range of reasons, largely personal, but some related to the fact that the community board formula "doesn't work".
Ms Maclaren owns a Subway franchise in Taupō and said her business had been frantically busy over the holidays necessitating long days, sometimes finishing as late as 2.30am. Things came to a head a couple of weeks ago, she said, when she fell asleep at the wheel while driving home to Motuoapa, near Tūrangi. She and her partner have sold their house and will be moving to Taupō later this month.
Despite that, Ms Maclaren said she would have considered staying on as the community board chairwoman had it not been for the fact that "the board has achieved absolutely nothing in this term".
Everything that had been achieved for Tūrangi since the board was elected in October 2019, including a new playground that was about to be built, progress towards an events and community centre, and a sports hub, was because of the efforts of councillors John Mack and Tangonui Kingi, Ms Maclaren said in her resignation letter addressed to Taupō district mayor David Trewavas and Taupō district councillors.
She told the Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender that if she truly believed that the community board was making great headway and doing what it set out to do then she might be more inclined to find a way to remain, but fundamentally, she didn't believe in the community board model any more.
"It's just another layer of middle management really. I think it would be just as effective if the council met the assorted residents' associations every quarter. If they set it up properly, they'd get enough done."
Ms Maclaren believed that the money being spent on the board each year would be better going towards a good operational leader in Tūrangi: a "mini CEO who lives and breathes making things better down here would be money well spent".
Council staff in the area lacked leadership and were not properly supervised, she said, and the board was "toothless" because it was not allowed to have any say in operational matters, and it was largely operational things in the area that needed fixing.
"Tūrangi and the southern bays lack basic infrastructure. Half of them don't even have running [reticulated] water let alone reliable power supply and connectivity. Eighteen months down the track [since the local body elections] we are still talking about cracks in the footpaths and the same rubbish we were talking about when we took office and I can't waste any more ratepayers' money doing it."
Ms Maclaren said she wasn't sure whether it was the community board model in general that was broken, or whether it just did not work in the Tūrangi-Tongariro area, where it has been largely ineffective for years and where no candidates stepped forward in a by-election last year.
"There are other areas that swear by their community boards and have a really good relationship but I'm not sure that they are necessarily communities that have the same particular challenges and circumstances."
She said Tūrangi had been underfunded for years and the board had fought hard to stop the council continually trying to patch up ageing facilities instead of completely replacing them.
However she paid tribute to the council's head of customer service and communications manager Lisa Nairne and to economic development and business transformation head John Ridd who she said who had been helpful in trying to get things done, and gave particular thanks to deputy mayor Christine Rankin who had been "a tireless champion" for the board and for Tūrangi.
Ms Maclaren's last community board meeting with her in the chair will be held today.