Community Governance and Civil Society: An Examination of the Purpose, Intent and Structure of Residents' Groups in New Zealand
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AbstractResidents’ groups have been in existence in New Zealand for almost 150 years yet very little is known about them. The collection of residents’, ratepayers’ and progressive associations, community councils, neighbourhood committees and the like make up a part of the community governance sector that numbers over a thousand-strong. These groups are featured prominently in our news media, are active in local government affairs and expend many thousands of volunteer hours every year in their work in communities… but what exactly is that work? From the literature we see these groups can be a source of local community knowledge (Kass et al., 2009), a platform for political activity (Deegan, 2002), critical of government (Fullerton, 2005) or help maintain government transparency and accountability (Mcclymont and O'Hare, 2008). They are sometimes part of the establishment too (Wai, 2008) and are often heard promoting the interests of local people (Slater, 2004). Residents’ groups can be set up to represent the interests of a specific demographic group (Seng, 2007) or focus on protecting or promoting a sense of place (Kushner and Siegel, 2003) or physical environment (Savova, 2009). Some groups undertake charitable activities (Turkstra, 2008) or even act in a negative manner that can impact on the community (Horton, 1996). This research examines 582 New Zealand organisations to derive a set of purposes that residents’ groups perform and ascertains how their purposes differ between geo-social and political locality and over three distinct eras of community development. The thesis also examines the relationship between residents’ groups and councillors, council officers, district health board members and civil defence and seeks to uncover if the level of engagement (if any) has an affect on their overall raison d’etre. The research concludes with a typology of New Zealand residents’ groups along with the key purposes of each type.