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Selecting fair and effective representation

29.11.05

Opportunity to select fair and effective representation

Last night, a public meeting of mainly Waitakere Ward residents became better acquainted with three possible options for electoral boundary changes necessary under the Local Electoral Act 2001.

Chair of the public meeting at the Civic Centre, Councillor Janet Clews said that it is important that the Council-community interaction over the next six months is robust enough to stand the scrutiny of both residents and the Local Government Commission.

She told the well attended meeting that the Council wants to take something with really good support to the Commission –“that’s why it is so important that we come to an agreed position, rather than risk imposition from the Commission.”

One of the considerations being discussed by the Council is that under the fair representation requirement of the Act, the existing Waitakere Ward cannot continue to have three councillors because its population is too small. Accordingly the Council is looking at a range of options including reducing the number of councillors, changing the boundaries to increase the population in the ward or re-organising the City into three larger wards, all with an urban/rural split.

“There have been misunderstandings in the public arena that the Council has already made its choice. Nothing could be further from the truth. We recognise Waitakere Ward’s special position (not complying with the requirement for the ratio of population per Elected Member not to vary by more than 10% between wards). We took the case for a legislative change on this aspect to the Select Committee, as the Local Government Commission has to date only looked at dispensations for very isolated rural communities

“We don’t want to be in the same position as Christchurch City where the Commission stepped in and made a decision not consistent with local input,” said Councillor Clews.

Waitakere’s Electoral Officer Darryl Griffin described the fair representation requirement of the Act as a “numbers game”. He said the Council had determined to retain 14 Councillors including a Mayor.

“This is an opportunity to ensure fair and effective representation,” said Mr Griffin.

Planning Consultant David Mead gave an overview of communities of interest in the three proposed options, each of which meets the population requirements.

He said the three-ward transport-land use option reflects commuter flows with each ward having a main centre and a stake in the Manukau and Waitemata Harbours, the Tasman Sea and the Ranges.

The four-ward landscapes option would create three Urban Wards of roughly equal size and a geographically large Rural Ward that includes Swanson and Titirangi.

“The adjustment to the status quo option tries to make the Waitakere Ward bigger to sustain three councillors. This option would see the Ranui area being put into the Waitakere Ward. But changes to address communities of interest would breach population limits,” said Mr Mead.

Some Waitakere Ward residents were worried about keeping the character of a rural ward, while a Titirangi resident asserted that Titirangi is “urban, not rural”.

Individual boundary roads could be easily adjusted within the options to satisfy concerns. Community Board boundaries would be contiguous with Ward boundaries, said Mr Mead.

An informal vote was taken at the end of the meeting as to which option was preferred. The majority voted for the four-ward landscape option.

ENDS

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