Dunedin city councillors have aligned themselves with the city’s community boards on the vexed topic of a proposed funding pool for elected members’ remuneration.
At Tuesday’s full council meeting, city councillors put forward a resolution opposing the Remuneration Authority’s proposal to include community boards in a funding “governance pool” for local authorities.
In the past two years, the authority has reviewed local body funding and has decided to create a funding pool for each council.
Whether community boards are to be included in this is yet to be decided, and the proposal has been met with universal opposition in Dunedin.
Speaking to The Star after the council meeting, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said councillors were emphatic that they did not want to be deciding the remuneration for community boards.
“It puts us in an invidious position,” he said.
“We put through a resolution suggesting to the Remuneration Authority that, since it had the responsibility for setting elected members’ remuneration that it actually fulfil that duty and not palm it off on to councils.”
Mr Cull was not enthusiastic about the funding pool concept for councils either, saying it was a “retrogressive step” which returned to an earlier funding model that had caused anomalies in the past.
One such anomaly had occurred between Tauranga and Dunedin, when populations and funding levels were similar.
However, the fact that Tauranga had 12 councillors and no community boards, while Dunedin had 14 councillors and did have community boards, meant that the remuneration for Tauranga’s councillors was almost double that of Dunedin’s.
“That was a stark anomaly and we seem to be heading back in the same direction,” Mr Cull said.
Such situations tended to breed resentment and conflict, he said.
Also, remuneration was a factor in encouraging people, particularly younger people and those from diverse backgrounds, to become councillors.
“The remuneration has to be sufficient to compensate for the fact that it is difficult to hold down a full-time job.
“I am really concerned that if we head back to where the remuneration is not satisfactory, there will be a whole lot of people who can’t afford to offer themselves.”
This led to one-dimensional councils, made up largely of older, white men, who were either retired, or could afford to take time off from their businesses.