Saying ‘We as an elected council are in charge of a lot of things’ is a huge understatement. From the state of our council owned infrastructure, to our community amenities like parks and cemeteries, to operating with fiscal responsibility; Councillors are directly responsible for a lot. We are also responsible for a lot of things that aren’t part of our core council business but are still very important. The community rightly see us as their representatives so expect to see us representing them ain the community and also as their advocates with central govt and orgs like Waka Kotahi. State Highway 35 is a prime example of something that is not a council asset, however, the community expectation is that we advocate and push on your behalf; like every other issue that affects our people and our region.
It’s a lot of work. But it’s work I enjoy doing on behalf of our community. Especially the advocacy. There’s a certain sense of camaraderie and kinship that happens when you have a diverse group of councillors all singing off the same song sheet, advocating and pushing our regional issues. That feels great. It feels like team work.
However, in my three terms on council, my hardest job has been the Chair of our Code of Conduct committee. My committee and the mahi we do, don’t receive much attention or fanfare. Nor should we. There’s a reason for that. But firstly, I need to give some context to what a CoC committee does.
Quite simply our CoC Committee is tasked with conducting investigations and making recommendations regarding Code of Conduct complaints to Council. But the doing is much more nuanced than that. First of all, the people that are subject to our Code are my council colleagues; my friends and peers that I have built a kinship with while tackling every issue for our region. This adds a layer of complexity. They are also the people you elected. In the paper recently, one of my Councillors recently referred to us all as having alpha personalities. She’s not wrong! So I am the person, who leads a process that investigates the alpha personalities! Again, another layer of complexity.
In 2021 our Council adopted a new Code of Conduct; Nga Tikanga Arataki: Ethics and Values for Elected Members. We as Council wanted our Code, our agreed tikanga, to take us through a more human process while adhering to legislation, and honouring the principles of natural justice which are afforded to us all.
As a result, the job isn’t just about investigating and making recommendations; the job is about maintenance and repair of relationships, manaakitanga, ethics and values. And this is why my committee quietly goes about it’s job.
The final product is a report that goes to council and balances on the razor thin edge between our council being accountable to our community, while staying on the right side of dignity, professionalism and the law.
On Wednesday we will have a Code of Conduct paper come to our Extraordinary Council public agenda about a recent Gisborne Herald front page article. I will chair this part of the meeting.
I know there will be some people in our community that would want our Code of Conduct process to be punitive. However, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us will want something that looks after everyone while trying to find some common ground to land on.
That is what I will endeavour to do in the meeting, and that is how I will choose to treat our elected councillors as long as I’m the chair. Because my mum taught me to treat people how I would want to be treated, regardless of what has happened.
As always, it’s still a privilege to work on your behalf.