Hutt at Heart
Panel chair Tracey Coleman and one of the new defibrillators

Community panels help bring local projects to life

If you’re in the Western Hills and find yourself in need of a defibrillator, luckily you won’t have to look far.

Seven new Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) will soon be in place at key locations, thanks to the Western Community Panel, who’ve funded them through their Local Community Panel Projects Fund.

Panel chair Tracy Coleman says in the past the community would have had to fund smaller projects like this themselves.

“It’s great to be able to support the community on projects that would otherwise take a lot of independent community fundraising and volunteer hours to complete,” she says.

“Being able to re-invest back into our ward is a great opportunity for both the Panel and the residents. There are always more projects, large and small, that the community is working on in a multitude of areas. It‘s great Council has funds in place to support communities in this wider capacity.”

Community panels are voluntary and were introduced in 2017, replacing the previous model of paid Community Committees. They operate across four wards – Eastern, Western, Northern and Central.

They make decisions on how to spend two funds. One is the Local Engagement Fund for local community engagement activities. The other is the new Projects Fund, to spend on community assets that haven’t been funded in Council’s Long Term Plan – it’s worth $114,000 over 3 years and is made up of the salaries that in the past would have been paid to the Community Committee.

The Panels also represent their community’s views on both local and city-wide issues so they can be considered when Council makes decisions. Each panel has five nonelected members. A Council officer also attends meetings but they’re very much driven by the panel. They’re a great way to mentor, coach and introduce new people to local government.

The Eastern Community Panel has also funded three AED’s around the Naenae community, which are located at Te Mangangu Marae, Waiwhetu Marae and Naenae Bowling Club. It also recently made a decision to fund the restoration of the landmark Naenae Clock Tower in Hillary Court, so that the hands on the clock can finally move past 11.16.

Other projects recently funded by Community Panels include a fully accessible ‘Changing Places toilet’ (a restroom facility that’s suitable for children and adults with high or complex needs), park equipment, two emergency generators, an extension of a basketball court, four water fountains and a new skate park.

Wendy Moore, Council’s Divisional Manager of Strategy and Planning, says “the early success of the Community Panels has shown this different model of representation can work.”

Central Panel Chair Jo Clendon says the panels reflect each ward’s diverse mix of people and businesses. “The people on our panels come from a range of backgrounds, with a variety of interests so we understand where our community is coming from and what matters to them.”

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Subscribe to Hutt at Heart – Te Manawa, your monthly email newsletter where you can find out about fantastic things going on across our city and at Hutt City Council.