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!

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