OK – what do you do?

The LGNZ guide for candidates says that “Local Board members spent on average 20 hours a week” in their role as a member. Interestingly, some people seem to think they can still hold a full time role as well as doing their duties as an elected member. In this post I will go over some of the things a member can be expected to do in a week.

Note – this was written in February 2020 – before everything changed! It still mostly holds true for Board members, with the addition of far more Skype calls now. My role as Deputy Chair has an extra layer of complexity and time added to the below.

The Workshop

This is the ‘bread and butter’ of the life of a Local Board member. Here is where we are given guidance by staff, presentations by entities who want to do things in our area, hear from CCO’s, decide on budgets and work programmes, come to a consensus and many other things.

Our board has a full day – from 930 till 5 of presentations and discussions, with a break in the middle. Over those 7 and a half hours we could have up to 9 presentations, ranging from half hour to multi-hour discussions. Board members need to be paying attention, asking good questions and showing that they are well prepared. Which leads me to my next item…


It is painfully obvious when a member hasn’t read ahead before the meeting. Often questions will be asked that are answered on the next slide, or assumptions based on past understandings can get in the way. Ideally we are provided with the necessary information at the beginning of the week, giving us time to go through everything. Auckland Council has an in-house application which allows for notetaking on the documents, making it really easy to bring up questions as they come up during the presentation. The documents can range from a 7 slide presentation, to a 100+ page document with various appendixes. Thankfully these usually include a very helpful summary of the info, and a scan and skim is usually sufficient to get up to speed with what we are being presented with.

There are also numerous reports produced by council that provide a lot of indepth background knowledge to what we are discussing. Examples of these are the council governance review, development contributions policy and all of the reports on the councils Knowledge Auckland website.

I’d say members do at least 3 hours of reading a week – sometimes more, sometimes less.

There is also the business meeting Agenda which is published once a month. Examples of these can be found here. This segues nicely into the next element of our role:

The business meeting

These take place once a month and effectively ‘make official’ the decisions we have made over the past month during workshops. Ideally most of this is ‘rubber stamping’ issues, but controversial ones will often take longer to get through. There is also space for a ‘public forum’, where members of the public can present to the Local Board about important issues they have, or to speak in support or against items on the agenda. These are formal affairs with a smart dress code and sense of ceremony. These can range in time from an hour to three or more hours long, and with our agenda run through added on, average out to an hour a week.

Community events

The ‘fun’ part of being a Local Board member. We are constantly being invited to great community events and often have to plan our weekends and nights around these. We could be at an event celebrating India’s independence, a movie in the park, sports events, tree planting… the list goes on. It felt a bit ‘weird’ going to one of these events and being treated as a “VIP”, gifted with flowers and fed first, but it also reiterates how important our role is to the community.

These events can take up a lot of time – in an ‘average’ week we probably spend 6 hours on these events, not including travel time.

Engagement events

The Local Board develops a 3 year Local Board plan, and it is really important we get community feedforward and feedback about it. We come up with a ‘draft’ plan and take it out to the community to get their ideas. For this we put on community forums – these actually happen throughout the term, once a month at varying venues. An excellent way to hear from the public, but still in need of more publicising. We also get out into schools, retirement villages and other groups to ensure we are getting a wide range of viewpoints. 

On average, probably two hours spent on engagement a week.

Professional Development

This term the council has a very good induction programme, Kura Kāwana. This consists of a number of different ‘sections’ that all help to build us to be ‘good governors.’ Topics range from Te Tiriti, to legal overviews, standing orders, quality advice and more. Scheduled on the weekdays, these also take up a portion of our time but are very well worth it. Being on a local board isn’t something that other jobs can necessarily ‘prepare’ you for – there are skills that other professions bring to the job for sure, but the importance of these development sessions cannot be underestimated. 


A slightly less fun part of the job is dealing with the avalanche of emails that come cascading into our inbox. Requests for meetings, ideas, conversations, clarifications, organisation, civil defense warnings…. On average we probably get around 20 emails a day, taking around 3 hours total a week to deal with.

Other meetings

Each local board member will have a different load here, depending on their interest and assigned roles. This term I am the Transport secondary, meaning we have a meeting with AT once a month, separate from our workshop and business meetings. For this, we have a very long list of issues that we go through with our AT liason, in an effort to ensure they don’t get lost in the system. Time will tell whether this works – so far so good!I am also on the Manukau Harbour Forum, which meets monthly and discusses a wide range of issues to do with the harbour – which has suffered from decades of neglect. This engenders an extra amount of reading and researching, as well as thought and discussion.

Across the year, we probably spend an average of two hours a week on development and other meetings.

Constituent issues

This is another favourite part of the job for me. People have lots of ideas about how we can make Puketāpapa better, and it is always really interesting to hear about them. Also, people also have lots of ideas about how Puketāpapa is being run badly – and these are usually pretty interesting as well!

We get to hear about these issues through a variety of ways – email, facebook, phonecalls, and most importantly kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face.) Sometimes this involves a casual chat at a cafe, other times I will go visit them at the place of concern.

We then have to actually deal with these issues – by contacting the right officer, logging the issue, bringing it up for discussion across the wider board.

Let’s say at least an hour a week is spent on issues.

And that’s just in the first 3 months!

I have no doubt I will find more work coming in over the years to come. An important thing to realise is that most of this stuff isn’t something you can regularly plan for – meetings come up on odd days, development days occur at different times, and everything is scattered across lots of different places. Thankfully I have an e-bike to get around!

There is also the constant feel of being on-the-job when out and about in the local area. When I see an area with too many weeds, I take a photo and log it. Maybe there’s a missing road sign – take a picture and log it. It’s the equivalent of being ‘that guy’ at parties – everytime I go out for a walk, run or a bike ride I’m looking out for something that needs fixing. 

Questions about what we do? Feel free to leave a comment or email me on email@jonturner.nz

How do Local Boards work?

If I had to choose a question, this is the one that pops up most often. Its understandable – first of all, a lot of people don’t even know what a Local Board is, let alone what a Local Board does.

The first step is understanding how Council works. Unfortunately, that’s something that a mere blog can’t explain – there’s a reason we have a very long induction process. The picture below shows the basic ‘makeup’ of Council:

Shared Governance

The council has two decision-making parts – a governing body which is made up of the mayor and 20 councillors, and 21 local boards made up of 149 members.

The governing body focuses on issues, decisions and strategies affecting the whole region while local boards represent their communities and make decisions on local issues.

These two ‘parts’ make decisions which, ideally, are then implented by the “council organisation.” The council organisation itself is massive – considering Auckland Council represents over 1.5 million people this is understandable.

The “organisation” is split up into a whole lot of different sectors that report individually to the Local Board.

Community Facilities: In charge of looking after our Parks, beaches and community assets such as halls and sportsfields. We see these guys a lot as this is an area where we can have a lot of say.

Parks, Sports and Recreation: Confusingly, this team is also involved in park stuff – but they are in charge of planning for the future as opposed to the day-to-day maintenance that CF look after.

Arts, Community and Events: This team is hugely relevant to local boards. They focus on engagement and empowerment of the community and provide a ‘human’ face to Council. We also see them often.

These are the ‘main three’ that we see most often at the Local Board. They report regularly, giving us updates about what is going on in our area.

The other sectors are: Infrastructure and environment services – they look after infrastructure (e.g stormwater, waste services). Plans and Places – in charge of ‘long-term’ thinking as to the future of Tāmaki Makaurau Service, Strategy and Integration – I kind of have no idea what these guys do. Apparently they are in charge of customer service? Libraries – Kind of obvious, quite good that this is a ‘seperate’ unit from the others.

There are also “council-controlled organisations,” which many people have heard of and know that the name doesn’t quite represent the truth. They operate at “arms length” from the Council – reporting back on what they do but not taking direction from decision makers. These include (but aren’t limited to: AT, ATEED, Watercare etc

In our Local Board office, we have some staff who work just on our local board:

Local Board Services – This team looks after … pretty much everything. They ensure our questions get to the right people, organise our workshops, ensure we are meeting deadlines, have huge amounts of local knowledge and can find out the answer to any question. They also attend all meetings and workshops, even after hours.

Democracy Advisor – In charge of looking after the correct processes in meetings, as well as ensuring all decisions are supported and followed up on by the correct staff. Prepares all our documents for business meetings and workshops, takes notes, does lots of stuff behind the scenes.

Admin Staff – Looks after reception, emails, organising members, logging issues, booking rooms, helping visitors.

We also share staff with other local boards:

A Relationship Advisor who is – for want of a better word- the ‘manager’ of the team of staff who help us. officially they “lead the political and strategic guidance provided to the Local Board Members. This involves both developing strategic advice and tailoring advice to meet the requirements of the Local Boards.”

A strategic broker – in charge of community empowerment, plan and deliver activities based on the need in communities

An Engagement Advisor in charge of engagement with the community, helping to establish our plans and ensure they meet the community’s needs, overseeing relationships with mana whenua. Often working after hours making sure our community events work smoothly

Communications advisor– in charge of social media channels, Our Auckland magazine and ensuring emergency messages get to the community.

So. That is a super quick overview of how Local Boards work – there is so much more detail I could go into but hopefully that’s enough for now – as I haven’t really started to talk about what we do!

Wesley Bay

Wesley Bay – half an hour before high tide.

Wesley Bay is a nice, long, calm beach that retains its ‘swim time’ longer than most of the others along the coast. Named after the former Wesleyan mission which was ‘granted’ the land around these ways for establishing a school, there is history all along the cliffs above it.

Frequented by dogwalkers, fishers and flounderers, nevertheless you will often have this beach to yourself – even on a hot summer’s day at high tide. You can access it from a walk from Waikōwhai Park that takes about ten minutes – so long as you take the right path!

Taking the path at the beginning of the carpark, walk past the slide and down through the bush till the path opens up.

Strangely, the sign directs you to Wesley Bay via a long bush walk (an estimated 50 minutes), but if you instead take the right hand fork down the un-signposted path, you will be down at Wesley Bay in minutes.

At low tide you can walk right around to the lovely bush walk through to Aldersgate Road, or all the way around to Taylor’s Bay.

A perfectly “nice” beach, barring the lack of soft sand to sit on.

Wesley Bay Ranking:


Wesley bay has a nice view out to Puketutu Island and is surrounded by impressive native bush. The sandstone cliffs provide an impressive backdrop and make it hard to remember you are less than 20 minutes drive to the CBD.



Usually quite a nice beach, unless there has been a party the night before. The water is usually good – make sure you check http://www.safeswim.org.nz before heading out.



A 15 minute walk from Waikowhai Park – just make sure you take the right path down. Even if you don’t – the sign says 50 minutes but it would be closer to half an hour.



Not a lot to “do” here – other than sit and swim, but that’s what you are here for. On the way down there is a playground and up by the carpark you can use the BBQ. Don’t forget to check the tide – you can only really swim here an hour before and after high tide.


The ‘feel’

The privacy plus swimmability makes this one of my favourites along the coast. On an overcast day it can feel …. a little gloomy.


Total score:


A perfectly fine score for a perfectly fine beach.

Waikōwhai Bay

The bay that gives the area its name, Waikōhai can be beautiful on the right day. The name Waikōwhai means “Kōwhai trees by the water’s edge” and the valley used to be full of the beautiful flowering trees. There are some sections of the walkway that still feature impressive mature Kōwhai trees but unfortunately down by Waikōwhai Bay most of the trees are relatively young.

This is because of the very short-sighted decision to turn this into a dumpsite in the 1960’s. It’s hard to comprehend the thought process our civic forefathers went through. “We need somewhere to dump all our home furniture, car parts and building material.” “I know just the place Reginald, a beach on the Manukau. Far away from our stately residences on the Waitemata.”

Eventually the tip was closed and covered and replanted, and once again the beach is a nice place to swim, constantly achieving great results on http://www.safeswim.org.nz. This beach is not as tidal as Wattle Bay, but it is still important to give yourself 40 minutes either side of high tide to get the maximum swim time.

To get down to Waikōwhai Bay, park up at the top carpark of Waikōwhai park by the playground and head down the track to the right. Follow the signage to the beach, ensuring you check out the old changing rooms, then try to walk as far along the beach itself to the left as you can, as the ocean floor is nicer down by the point.

Waikōwhai Bay Ranking:


Waikōwhai Bay is surrounded by native bush and is a “twitcher’s delight.” You are almost guaranteed to spot a variety of native birds, from Kōtare, Petrels, Tui, Oystercatchers to Kereru. The view out to Puketutu and Mangere mountain is great on a nice day. However, the built infrastructure drags this place down. Broken chairs, unsightly pipes and overgrown gardens.



The water can be quite murky here, especially on an outgoing tide and there is an unsightly pipe on the beach itself. Apparently this is just a stormwater pipe but it definitely doesn’t add to the natural beauty of the area. This is a bay that needs some love and will hopefully be getting it soon.



A five minute walk from the carpark, or a 20 minute one from the bus stop on Hillsborough Rd.



Not a lot going on here. A missing bench seat and a rubbish bin. The historical changing rooms make it a bit more interesting than others around.


The ‘feel’

The walk down to Waikōwhai Bay is nice, and if you can get to the far end it is a nice spot to enjoy the incoming tide. However, it is not the greatest spot by a long way and needs a lot of TLC to get up to scratch.


Total score:


Now that I’ve added it up, the score seems a bit harsh. The bay is a nice enough spot, but there are better bays close by. However, if Faulkner is packed, pop over here. It’s fine.