Councillor Penrose Replies to Claims From Local Board Chair on Community Empower #AKLPols

Second round of claims from Manurewa Local Board Chair refuted


Earlier in the week Manurewa Local Board Chair Angela Dalton again took to the Papakura Courier this time about the Community Empowerment Engagement model being rolled out at Auckland Council.

This was the article:



This is the reply from Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councillor – Calum Penrose

Empowered communities can’t be built in a day.

It’s been almost two months since Auckland Council launched the Empowered Communities approach. This encourages council and community organisations to approach community development in a new way that builds on community strengths with council playing an active supporting role. For many years, councils have been telling communities what to do and how to do it. Since no one understands the needs of a community quite like the community itself, we have given communities the chance to lead. The approach has, unfortunately, been misinterpreted by some as Auckland Council abandoning their responsibilities to communities.

The driving force behind the change has been that it is not sustainable to intensively support local initiatives as we have been. Council funding will still be allocated and each local board area has a contact person, their Strategic Broker, who can help community groups with their projects. In December, permanent Strategic Brokers will start working with their dedicated area.

There has been a careful approach to transitioning between the old and new models. Council staff have done what they can to minimise disruption to existing projects and networks. As always when there is major change to how a business or organisation operates, some staff losses occur, but a concerted effort was made to retain those who could offer the skills needed. There was also the opportunity for existing staff to play a role in the transition process to reduce the loss of institutional knowledge. The Strategic Brokers will have an excellent knowledge of the area they will work with. They are passionate about supporting the best possible outcome for communities.

Support continues to be available for the projects committed to under previous work programmes so no one should be left in the lurch. It is too early in the game to share success stories, but I will be keeping a close eye on progress and look forward to feedback from communities who run projects through this model.  We will rely on communities to really bring this approach to life.

There has been broad support for the Empowered Communities approach from the majority of local boards. The work programmes for each local board, which provide the mandate for council support, were all signed off some time ago – with the notable exception of the Manurewa Local Board who only completed theirs on 19 November. Most local boards understand that we need to improve the way we support our communities, and that sometimes significant change to the old models is needed.

I am disappointed to see comments from Angela Dalton and Simeon Brown criticising council staff. To me positive outcomes require active communities, council staff working collaboratively, and elected members working in their communities on a daily basis to deliver on the ground.

Leadership is essential in making innovative approaches work. As a councillor, I have the responsibility to promote projects that can make Auckland a better place to live. Negative politics is easy, but it is counter-productive to our cause. We have not had a negative response from any local board, except Manurewa. There is an expectation that elected members will show the maturity to have faith in decisions and knowledge of council’s staff. Elected members cannot expect to understand the workings and needs of their area without actively participating in and learning about council’s initiatives in their area. An absentee chairperson is not an effective chairperson. What they can do – local board members and councillors alike – is advocate new projects, help groups network, work on the ground at events, and contribute to strategic planning.



Now I had a meeting with Panuku Development Auckland talking about the upcoming Transform urban renewal program due to be released on December 8. I had discussed with Panuku the need to take the communities with them on the urban renewal journey lest you want maximum resistances from the said community. Panuku realise this so this is where Community Empowerment would be tested (in a good way) especially with the big Metropolitan Centres under the lens for renewal.


So with anything it takes time to get things going. Community Empowerment being no different.