Petone Community Board member Richard Cole enjoys working for the betterment of his community.
Mr Cole was first elected to the board in 2001 and is currently serving his fourth term. “I enjoy meeting the people who have the best wishes of the community at heart and those who work behind the scenes to retain the character of the area for future generations.”
The Korokoro resident decided to stand after hearing another board member from Korokoro was standing down. “I had a reasonable idea of the community. I had been a teacher at Petone College.”
Although the board’s role is largely advisory, Mr Cole says it can have an impact on decisions, such as when it led community opposition that forced the council to backtrack on plans to close the McKenzie Pool. “One hopes that the council will also support the wishes of the community who have been asking for years that the pool needs replacement.”
He says one of the board's most important roles is as a link between citizens and the council. “The McKenzie Pool issue seems to support the idea that we have been a successful conduit."
Mr Cole says residents feel relaxed about approaching the board directly. "The best thing about board meetings is their intimacy. A Petone resident can come and talk at our meetings quite comfortably but may feel much more threatened by the more formal arrangements of a full council meeting.”
However, Mr Cole says he sometimes gets frustrated at public criticism of the board. “It is often uninformed criticism and does not warrant a response in public.”
But he accepts the board could do better at communicating but is constrained by a lack of resources. “Obviously, if we had the finance to have a council office in the Petone area that would be the best and we could then ensure people had more opportunity to contact us or ask questions. We have just published our first newsletter and want to get a web presence.”
The debate on whether Wellington should become a super city brings the board’s existence into question. But Mr Cole is confident it will be retained. “Community boards will definitely be needed to be a link for the citizens to voice their issues. If this type of structure is not available, people will feel isolated from decisions. Also a large council (and councillors) cannot be in touch with every issue in every community. That is why community boards exist.”
Mr Cole says amalgamation in some form is inevitable. “So it would be best to be leading the change than be dragged into making someone else’s idea of a super city work.”
He has a clear goal for the remainder of his current term. “I would like to throw the current mayor Ray Wallace into the new McKenzie Pool when it opens. The other councillors can then throw the board members in.”