Hamilton City, New Zealand

Meshweyla Macdonald

Intelligent, experienced and have integrity
LLB(hons) BMS(hons) MMS(hons)
Former Executive Director, Corporate and Executive Education
Former Operations Manager, Massey University
Current Waikato Regional Council staff
Current business owner in Hamilton
Hamilton resident
Mother of three

I’m standing for the Waikato Regional Council (WRC) because we need to make better decisions about a lot of things. I have the intellect, experience and sensibility to shape better decisions for our community now and into the future.

I work at WRC as staff, so I understand how the organization works operationally and how to get things done.

We have a river running through the heart of Hamilton city that we cannot swim in or drink from. The Regional Council plan is to have the river clean by 2096. We need it cleaner, sooner. We need to keep decision making about our water, local. Much of the Three Waters proposal lives with the City Council, but where it touches WRC we need practical decisions that we can afford, that reflect your priorities.

The Regional Council needs to live within its means just like the rest of us. That means making better decisions about how Council money is spent. NOT putting rates up. It means finding better ways of doing things, using technology better, or simply regulating less things.

We need a sensible approach to climate change. As a city and region we are already doing a lot to mitigate our climate footprint. Let’s support the awesome work that is already happening and make climate mitigation easy and convenient for us to incorporate into our daily lifestyles.

We are currently running empty buses and a train service which are not financially viable. We need better options for people to move around that are financially sustainable.

The Regional Council has a different focus than that of the City Council. Regional Council focuses on environmental management across the broader region (from Port Waikato in the north, to Taupo in the South, across to Raglan/Kawhia along the west, and the Coromandel peninsula in the east), as well as things on a regional scale – e.g. planning, infrastructure and transport.

– Better, practical approaches to managing our natural environment – particularly our waterways – they are vital to the wellbeing of our community.
– Smarter, more careful spending of rates money. This money reflects the hard work of you and me and should be treated as such. STOP increasing rates, use those monies better.
– Better regional planning and infrastructure to provide for more housing and a strong business sector.
– Keep the climate agenda reasonable, sensible and practical.
– Need to solve the public transport problem. Current empty buses and train are unsustainable.
– Better coordination needed between community organizations to avoid duplication of projects and streamline efforts and resources that will increase wellbeing for Hamilton residents and families.

No, I am not a member of, and do not work directly or indirectly for any registered political party.

I am not associated closely or distantly with any political party.

appreciate the intent – to improve the quality of water for New Zealanders.

HOWEVER, I am not convinced that the current proposal will yield the benefits that have been sold.

I believe decision making about water should be done as close to the end user as possible.

Control of water assets should remain local.

Forcing people to sign up to something that the public have voiced resistance to is not what democracy is about.

I am concerned that costs will balloon and exceed those in the original projections – anything the government gets involved in always takes longer and costs more than projected.

More needs to be done to show how co-governance can benefit the community, or not. Look at examples of where co-governance has worked well, and or failed. Then let the community decide how to best proceed.

Note that much of the Three Waters decision making lies with the Hamilton City Council, not the Regional Council. However where it does touch the Regional Council, I believe community consultation about things that would fundamentally impact the community, is essential.

Appropriate minority representation is a really difficult thing to achieve in practice. But ensuring multiple perspectives are considered produces more well rounded, representative outcomes for the community.

Our community is diverse, so there must be balanced and diverse representation.

The existence of Maori wards is one way of way of promoting diversity in decision making, while honouring treaty obligations.

Proactive Maori representation complements existing general ward representation and provides an opportunity to consider another way of looking at things.

The number of Maori seats associated with Maori wards is small, relative to the entire Council, so any proposals and perspectives must receive the support of the majority of Council to stick. The existence of Maori wards however, means that proposals and perspectives given consideration are more diverse than they would otherwise be, which I think is a good thing for our community.

I have seen examples where co-governance has worked well and the outcomes were better for the community at large, than they were before co-governance was implemented. There may be instances where co-governance has failed. These should also be considered.

I would like to see the community consulted properly before any mandates are given about any kind of new governance structure. Quality and credible information should be provided to the community, meaningful dialogue should happen, and then decision makers must listen to what the representative community says. Not just the noisy minority, but what the average and majority of the community says, as well as the perspectives of diverse minorities. Then action should be taken that aligns with the values expressed by the community.

The problem with mandating something as fundamental to democracy as co-governance, is it would erode community confidence in the legitimacy of democracy. When forced to do things they don’t believe in, people become resistant to the mandate, and by association, the thing being mandated, which undermines the whole thing.

So could co-governance work? I think it is worth considering given the evidence I’ve seen, but I think the community would have to be onboard with any change in this space if it was to be sustainable and effective.

Currently I see local government as being the implementers of what is set down by central government. I’m not sure this is the best way of doing things.

To be honest, I think it should be more the other way around, where local government helps to shape and influence how central government works. Local government is closer to us, the communities of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and since government SHOULD BE a reflection of the community, local government should have a collectively stronger voice in determining what is best for communities of Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Unless a decision has nation wide implications, central should leave local government to self manage in ways that work best for local communities. Where local communities need additional support/coordination, e.g. for infrastructure etc, central can support as appropriate, and coordinate efforts and conversations nationally to ensure diverse but united local governments are equipped and supported to look after their communities.

This would be a difficult sell to central, however I believe it is the best interests of the community to promote local decision making and local management of assets as a default over central decision making or central control over assets, where possible.

I’ll speak to the Waikato Regional Council involvement.

I applaud the intent behind Te Huia, to reduce emissions and better connect Auckland and the Waikato. However, I’m not persuaded that the execution of this project has produced the value that it should have for the community. From a business sense, the financial figures are abysmal.

Yes, numbers are increasing. Yes, covid. Yes, it takes time. But, even if the projections materialize, this project is still a long way from being sustainable financially. Plus it isn’t as user-friendly as it needs to be (i.e. does not go into Central Auckland like it should and won’t ever be able to given it is diesel powered and the Auckland underground doesn’t support such). I just don’t see this as producing good value for the spend of Regional Council monies.

Regional Council are required by law to provide regional transport connections. As a city and region, nobody is going to say we don’t want to be well connected. But the WAY the current bus scheme is being run is not happening in a way that is economically viable.

Should the Regional Council be involved in running the Hamilton city bus service? I’m not convinced, but its hard to argue with legislation, so the next best thing is to hold the Regional Council to account to run the buses in a more economically and environmentally sustainable way. Empty buses are not good for the local tax payer, nor are they good for the environment.

People are busy, and often don’t have the bandwidth to understand the reach or impact local government (LG) decisions have on their daily lives now and into the future.

LGs are typically pretty bad at properly engaging with their communities broadly (the same demographics consistently engage, and the same demographics consistently don’t). Who wants to read a 300 page LG plan draft to be able to make intelligent contributions to decision making? Only the die-hard.

LG is also often seen as rigid, irrelevant and wasteful. There is contempt among many towards LGs generally, and a feeling that the community doesn’t get good value back for their rates, which they have to pay, or face consequences.

And many don’t see diversity in the make up of LGs which would inspire confidence that their voice actually matters. There is often more diversity visible among candidates for central government.

On the other hand, while engagement towards central government is likely to be laced with similar contempt and feeling that taxes are wasted, however the media hype around parliamentary elections is significantly elevated; people feel more of a civic duty to vote in parliamentary elections. So busy people make time to vote in national elections, where they might not expend the same effort in local elections.

There is probably also an element of parliamentary elections being grander, issues more glamorized, and having a bigger daily impact, with local elections seeming less so.

Regional Councillors (and City Councillors) SHOULD normally live in the area they aspire to represent.

If you want to represent Hamilton city, then live in Hamilton city.

How else can you be properly connected to the broad and diverse views of the people you want to represent and make decisions on behalf of/for? It doesn’t make sense to me to want to represent an area that you are not personally invested in. If you want to represent a particular community area, show some commitment and move to that area. Or stand as a candidate for the area you do live in.

Yes there should be a limit. You want to keep ideas and approaches fresh, while leveraging gained experience. A balance between churn and stickability would produce the most robust conversations and outcomes.

A limit on the number of terms would also remind candidates and councilors (re-election pending), that they have a strictly limited time to drive community led change, so they’d best be getting on with it. It should keep complacency in check and people on their toes.

A career councilor offers wisdom and experience, but is this going to yield maximum value to the community in an age where stability is fleeting and change is the norm? You’ve got to meet disruptive community issues, with disruptive and changing perspectives through a steady stream of fresh candidates, issued with a limited timeframe in which to contribute.

Three terms should be long enough for any candidate to offer their maximum value to our community.

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