Community Panels Survey Appendix 1
Two hundred and forty nine (249) people on the Citizen's Panel responded to the survey out of a possible 1983. One hundred and fourteen respondents (114) were from the randomly selected sample and one hundred and thirty five (135) from the self-selected sample. The response rate for the survey was low and does not provide a statistically robust result on which to base decisions.
Forty nine per cent (49%) supported the Community Panel proposal, twenty eight per cent (28%) did not support the proposal and twenty three per cent (23%) said that didn’t know.
Seventy seven per cent (77%) believe that Community Committees or Community Panels are required for democratic representation in Hutt City.
The highest level of support for the proposal came from the Western (47%), Eastern (47%) and Central (52%) wards with the Northern ward split evenly between those who supported it and those that did not (37%). In the Western Ward 31% did not support the proposal. Democratic representation was valued highly by all areas of the city in particular the Northern ward (92%).
The key issue for respondents was ensuring that whatever system was used provided communities with a voice at the Council table and greater involvement of local groups within the community. Many people who did not support the proposal expressed concern about relying on Councillors and Council officers to ensure that robust and meaningful community engagement was undertaken – they did not believe that this would happen. Another key concern was the perceived inequality between areas in the city if Community Committees did not exist while Petone, Eastbourne and Wainuiomata continued to have Community Boards – “equality between areas is justified, that is why they (Community Committees) are there at present”.
The ability of only two Panels to represent the diversity of interested views in the areas concerned was also questioned – “Hutt City population is very diverse - ethnically, culturally, socially and age. Two panels could not represent such a range fairly”.
Some suggested that Community Boards should be replaced by panels also if this was to happen for the rest of the city. People did not think that two Community Panels would be able to effectively represent the broad areas the Panel would cover and preferred having four panels rather than two.
On the other hand, those who did support the proposal were attracted by the cost savings and the reduction of bureaucracy generally. These people did not perceive existing Community Committees and Community Boards as doing a good job representing the interests of their community and felt that members were more concerned about pushing their own agendas “Our Wainuiomata local community committee is ineffective and anti-business growth” and “members just take us for granted and do and say whatever they want”.
Respondents felt that the proposal was not sufficiently developed for them to be able to form a real view of the advantages or disadvantages of changing from Community Committees to Community Panels. They were, however, in favour of change that would mean that communities accessed more funding for projects in their areas, they liked the idea of having panel members being more active in the community and they were attracted by the greater level of flexibility the proposal seemed to offer. They wanted people who have the capabilities needed to be responsible for funding decisions.
Fair representation for all areas of the city was a key concern for all respondents. There was a perception that those communities with Community Boards received greater levels of representation and therefore funding because they had more “political clout” than the areas without Community Boards. People did not want to be treated differently simply based on where they live.
Because it is a key concern, the comments regarding representation have been analysed separately below. Verbatim comments are attached as Appendix I.
Those who supported the Community Panel proposal:
· Thought that communities would be better served by Community Panel as this would get more locals involved
· Wanted more autonomy to be given to local groups to deliver projects locally
· Thought two panels would be sufficient
· Saw it as an opportunity for the city to move into the 21st century in terms of representation
· That it would be helpful to have a Council officer involved to “keep discussion grounded and focussed”
Those who didn’t support the Community Panel proposal were concerned about:
· The watering down of local representation – dilution of the “local voice”
· The difficulty for only two Community Panels to be able to fairly represent such large, diverse areas of the city. (There is a definite preference for four Community Panels if this is the model chosen from those supporting the proposal also)
· What would happen to the other delegations that Community Committees currently have
· Lack of trust in Councillors – don’t think that they will fairly represent the views of the community but rather favour their own views
The comments from the group that didn’t think that there should be any second tier representation focused on:
· Councillors being more than capable of representing local views – ample opportunity for residents to speak directly to their Councillors
· Thought that Community Boards should also be disestablished
· Community Committees are not democratic because they are appointed
· Better use of ratepayer resources
The response rate for the survey was low and does not provide a statistically robust result on which to base decisions. However, the responses do provide a reasonable “feel” for where people generally stand on the issue of Community Committees or Community Panels.
Many felt the proposal was not adequately developed and this resulted in a high number of “Don’t know” responses to the question of whether or not they supported the proposal. However, a very high proportion (77%) believes that Community Committees/panels are required for democratic representation in Hutt City. Only 8% of people responded “Don’t know” to this question.
Representation is important – how this is achieved is, perhaps, less important. If the proposal for Community Panels can be developed further and clearly show how the desire for representation can be accommodated and enhanced then it is highly likely that it will receive broader community support.
 The randomly selected sample was recruited by Public Voice from the community and is statistically representative of Hutt City’s population in terms of age, gender and ethnicity.
 The self-selected sample are people who have contacted Council and asked to be involved in engagement, consultation and surveys