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Tasman Council urged to retain ward system

29 May 2006

Rural Women New Zealand urges Tasman District Council to retain ward system

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) has grave concerns about the effectiveness of rural representation if Tasman District Council goes ahead with a proposal to abolish its ward-based voting system, and is calling on the council to scrap the idea.

Rural communities with smaller populations, such as Golden Bay, are unlikely to have the weight of numbers to elect councillors who live in their own area if a simple first-past-the-post system is adopted, as proposed by Mayor John Hurley this month.

People tend to vote for names they are familiar with or people they know. If wards are abolished and Tasman’s 12 councillors are elected regardless of where they live, it is likely to lead to a strong urban bias on council, despite the fact that 75% of the land area is rural.

RWNZ believes rural communities are becoming marginalized, and has consistently opposed moves towards any voting system that weakens rural representation on councils and District Health Boards around the country.

“We disagree with the suggestion that because Tasman District councillors already have to represent the whole district, that a ward-based system is unnecessary,” said RWNZ National President, Sherrill Dackers today.

“Local people have local knowledge, and rural people need easy access to councillors who can understand their particular needs and concerns through first-hand experience. Rural life brings its own challenges, and it is vital that rural issues are clearly articulated around the council table.”

Rural people contribute a significant proportion of the rates in Tasman District and they deserve direct representation through retention of the ward system. One size does not fit all.

ENDS

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