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Transcript of roles and responsibilities of elected members video

[video: six people sit around tables in a panel discussion]

Tamsyn Matchett: Awesome, thanks Dale. So we now know what positions you might consider standing for, and it would be good to explore these roles in a little more depth. Marguerite, at the governing body level, what can a candidate expect if they were successful? And what kind of decisions are they responsible for?

Marguerite Delbet: Thanks, Tamsyn. So the mayor and the 20 councillors together form the Governing Body. And the Governing Body is responsible for making the big picture strategic decisions that affect the whole of Auckland.

The very first thing that they do is they decide on the 30-year vision for Auckland which we call the Auckland Plan, which really sets the long term direction for our city. And then they also decide on strategies - the waste minimization strategy is an example of the economic development strategy. So these are the big strategies that really are gonna guide the investments and the decisions that are affecting residents in the city.

Another thing the Governing Body does is to adopt bylaws. Some examples might [audio lost] When can you walk your dog on the beach? And what can you and cannot you do with your dog?

A big part of the Governing Body role is to decide on budgets, that a 10-year budget, which we call the long-term plan, and also annual budget. And it is the governing body that sets the rate for Auckland and what Aucklanders will pay. They also monitor the performance of council-controlled organisations, what we call CCOs.

So they make a whole lot of other decisions that affect the myriad of services that Auckland Council delivers. And it can be bus timetables, it can be around libraries or public transport more generally. Big investment decisions that are made at the governing body level.

So in terms of the commitment, the mayor's role is more than full-time, really, it is a significant both professional and personal commitment, certainly more than 40 hours a week and pretty much seven days a week. And the mayor has an office that supports them to operate. In that mayoral office, by law, has a dedicated budget which is there for the mayor to be able to exercise their responsibilities.

The councillor roles are also full-time, and they're both daytime and evening commitments. The mayor and the councillors attend many of the, many meetings, really, all the meetings of the Governing Body and its committees of the whole. Other committees, workshops, panels, all kinds of meetings where you spend a lot of time in the town hall.

The workshops, for instance, are organised to brief elected members on different subjects that they have to make decisions on. In elected members or Councillors, like all elected members, attend public events and deal with constituent queries and engage with the community. So it's very much a public-facing role. And there is a myriad of other things that on an ad hoc basis, they will be asked to do.

Tamsyn Matchett: So as the person in the room who has been a councillor, Michael, what does this look like, in reality? What can someone expect?

Michael Goudie: Yes, yeah, I have had the privilege of being a councillor. And I think to reiterate a couple of those points, it's regional decision-making. It's not particularly local decision-making and it sort of, it is at the crux of that governance role. It's really cool.

You do have a day lined up full of workshops, committees, subcommittees. You get to sit alongside incredible staff and really work through those big policy, meaty issues. So I definitely agree that it's more than full-time. And I often describe being a councillor is it can be the most frustrating environment you're in. But it was also the most rewarding. And I think your ability to level up and be involved and put your thumbprint on the regional growth of the city is a really neat part of it.

And, sort of, that definitely outweighs all the rest of it. So as a regional decision maker, you are based in the city a lot of the time. You have offices here. You're always sort of, you've got buckets of reading to do and you're always trying to think a couple of weeks ahead about the decisions you are about to make. So trying to get familiar with the issues around them. And, you know, 80 per cent of the time they're not in your ward, so you're doing a lot of travelling around and just trying to best represent your ward or your community at that regional level.

So, yeah, you definitely have events most nights and on the weekends, so yeah, it's certainly a bit of a lifestyle. I would say there might be some other Councillors that don't quite put in that work but -

Tamsyn Matchett: We won't go there.

Michael Goudie: Yeah, please don't go there, yeah.

Tamsyn Matchett: So, thank you, Michael. So Louise, in terms of this, at the Local Board level, is it similar, how does it differ? What can people expect in terms of the responsibilities for delivering plans and priorities to the communities?

Louise Mason: Yeah, thanks Tamsyn. So look, the Local Board role is really about local civic leadership. And local boards are responsible for decision-making on local activities, issues and services.

So this might be things like planning or upgrades to parks and town centres. It might be about local services at your recreation centre or at your pools or community programmes, or it could be about local events, et cetera.

In terms of other roles that we have for local boards, Marguerite talked about regional plans and bylaws. And local boards have an important role in providing local input into those plans and bylaws. So, again, things like freedom camping, dog bylaws, et cetera.

One of the key responsibilities of local boards is every three years to engage with their communities and develop a local board plan. And this local board plan articulates the aspirations of their local communities, and is a very important part of that Local Board role.

Local board members also work with mana whenua and maata waka. They prioritise spending of the local budget and also monitor that spending and delivery of projects. And they're responsible for building strong relationships with local stakeholders, and helping to support the building of strong communities.

Tamsyn Matchett: Awesome, thanks Louise. And Simon, given you were a local board chair, what does this look like? How was it in terms of your lived experience?

Simon Randall: I guess the first thing to say, Tamsyn, is that there's no such thing as an average day as an elected member. And that's certainly true as a local board member. Every day is a bit different.

And Louise covered the nuts and bolts in terms of what the role is and the sorts of decisions you'll be making. But a lot of that is driven by other people. And so I guess the key bit of advice I'd give anyone thinking about being an elected member, a local board member, is you're always going to have more things to get involved in than time.

And so being very clear about what you want to achieve out of your three years, what sorts of things are priorities and important for you and your community, and put your emphasis there.

I guess also, as part of that, staff are there to really support and advise and assist you. And I guess it's making that point that it benefits your community to build that relationship. Some elected members don't quite see it that way. It's your decision whether or not you take that advice, but don't shoot the messenger.

Tamsyn Matchett: And what is it like working alongside other elected members?

Simon Randall: This is quite an interesting thing because sometimes it's a bit of a surprise for people who get elected on a platform, but everyone gets elected wanting to achieve things. And sometimes you're on a board of seven people.

Everyone's been elected for different things, and it takes a majority of people voting for that to achieve what you want to achieve. So the best thing that you can do is build relationships with your colleagues, work together on what you have common ground on, play issues, not people, and then you'll get things achieved. You don't get anything out of your three years if you're constantly just one vote in the wilderness, so working with colleagues is really important.

Tamsyn Matchett: And how do you ensure that you're accurately representing the views of your community?

Simon Randall: I guess it's that thing that sometimes the loudest voices or the voices that are most readily available aren't always the most representative. And it is a thing that, as an elected member, there will be people that will contact you, that will be in touch, and that's really useful to get a sense of issues and things that are out there.

But the best advice I'd give you is think about who you're not hearing from. Think about which voices in the community you aren't accessing. You make better decisions when you hear a range of views, and it's always in your interests to seek them out if they're not coming to you through the door.

Tamsyn Matchett: Awesome, thanks Simon and Michael, that's great advice. So for remuneration, if successful, what does remuneration look like for elected members, Marguerite? And also, I'd just like to acknowledge Genevieve who's put a question forward for Slido which we will get to. Just to let you know that she's asked about the remuneration for the mayor, okay?

Marguerite Delbet: So the remuneration for all elected members, and that's true for local bodies all around New Zealand, is set by the Remuneration Authority, which is an independent body. So the council doesn't have a say in the way the remuneration is, the levels the remuneration is set at. So for the mayor, the remuneration is being set for the new term at $296,000 per annum. And the mayor can choose to have access to a council car if they so wish.

For the councillors in the new term there's going to be a new system which hasn't been used before, whereby a minimum remuneration has been set for councillors at $106,306. And then there is a pool, at a total pool of $430,000, which the Governing Body will choose to allocate to positions of extra responsibilities. And that includes the deputy mayor.

It includes all councillors, if they want to allocate more to each councillor, and also positions like the chairs of the committees of the whole, and other positions of the responsibility that they might choose to allocate extra remunerations for. So that's gonna be a new system. And it's a little bit different for local boards. So I'll get Louise to explain how that works.

Louise Mason: Yeah, thanks Marguerite. So look, for local boards, the remuneration range is different for each board. And, as Marguerite explained about the Remuneration Authority, they set a ranking for the local boards, and this takes into account different factors. This includes population, the total assets and the board expenditure and social deprivation. So that's what the ranking is based on.

We have a different rate for the chair. The deputy chair receives 60 per cent of the chair's remuneration, and local boards receive 50 per cent of the chair's remuneration. So for the new term, the remuneration of the chair's will range between 85,000 to 99,000. And for members, the figure is between 44,000 to 49,000.

Now look, I just also note for Waiheke and Aotea Great Barrier, the rates are lower because they have a smaller population. So that's basically the remuneration for the local boards.

Tamsyn Matchett: And Marguerite, do they receive additional reimbursement payments for the work that they're doing as an elected member?

Marguerite Delbet: So the Remuneration Authority also set up the rate of some other expenses that can be reimbursed. The most obvious one is about transport costs, so whether it's public transport or the use of your car. And we've got an elected member expense policy that outlines all those, all those expenses and what elected members can claim. So that's something that we can explain in more detail when people are elected and when they come into office.

But there's one thing that I think is really important to emphasise, and that is that elected members are basically considered to be self-employed, so they are responsible for their own taxes. So it's really important, if you're elected, that you get some financial and tax advice, because you will have to cover your own taxes and you will also have to cover your ACC levies. So don't get caught, if you get elected, get advice and get ready.

Tamsyn Matchett: Okay Marguerite, we also have a question here from Sierra via Slido. Kia ora Sierra. "Why is remuneration so poor? This role requires strategic expertise and a huge time commitment."

Marguerite Delbet: So obviously the councils do not have a say in how the remuneration is set, this is decided by the Remuneration Authority. They have done a very thorough review of remuneration throughout the country over the last 18 months, and they have established the rates based on what they believe is fair remuneration, but also taking into account the fact that they considered that being an elected member is a commitment to your community.

And they set the, the salary of this rate, the remuneration of the mayor of Auckland, as the biggest role in local government. And they use the role of an MP as a benchmark. And from there, just decided the ranking of all the different roles. But there is definitely a consideration that a service to your community comes into the role.

Tamsyn Matchett: Absolutely, so in terms of the support that people can expect to receive if they are elected, what does this look like for elected members?

Marguerite Delbet: So first of all, for all elected members, both Governing Body and local board, we've got a programme called Kura Kāwana, and that is the elected member development programme. So it comprises a very comprehensive induction programme, which really helps the elected member to come on board. And then ongoing professional development over the three years of the term.

And the other thing that we do for elected members is we give them a phone and a computer if they so wish, and so there's also training and support on how to use that technology.

So for the Governing Body, the mayor and the councillors, have an office in the CBD in the Auckland Council house on 135 Albert Street. And they also, as I explained, the mayor has their own office which supports them, but the councillors are supported by a team of dedicated advisors, which we call the councillor support advisor team.

And they do everything from diary management and help with email as well as constituent query, advice, research, so they work very, very closely as the right hand of their councillor. And it's important to realise that the council staff, as an organisation, exists to support the elected members make decisions. So we are here to provide advice and support so that they can exercise their governance role. And so the whole organisation is geared towards providing advice.

Tamsyn Matchett: And Louise, what does that look like for local board members?

Louise Mason: Yes, so local board members have a local board office which will be based in their local community, and they have a dedicated team that actually helps support them as well. So that team works really closely with them and helps them in fulfilling their role.

As Marguerite said, the organisation itself, the wider organisation of Auckland Council, also provides specialist's advice and support to local board members. And we also have the local communications team also provides that support as well. So quite a range of people that are helping provide that advice to local board members and support.