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Taxation Without Representation

23 March 2005

Taxation Without Representation

An inquiry into local government elections must restore fair rural representation around the council table, said Charlie Pedersen, Vice President of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

"Farmers are losing fair representation in an increasing number of councils. This is a result of systemic problems with the Local Electoral Act, and could worsen as a result of a process known as 'representation reviews'," Mr Pedersen said.

Mr Pedersen made the comments while presenting Federated Farmers’ submission to the justice and electoral select committee, which is holding an inquiry into the 2004 local authority election fiasco.

“The Local Electoral Act’s fixation on strictly applied population quotas and its requirement that all local authorities review their representation arrangements before 2007 is resulting in farmers having little or no say around the council table,” he said.

"Many of the representation reviews carried out so far have seen councils axe rural wards or cut the number of councillors elected from rural wards.

“Basing representation solely on population when local government raises money on the basis of property values rather than use of council services undermines the basic principle of democracy," said Mr Pedersen.

"It is people not properties which use council services. Local government is funded in reverse. In the absence of a fair funding system for local government we must protect those that pay the bills from the tyranny of the majority,” he said.

Mr Pedersen called for amendments to the Local Electoral Act to enable greater flexibility in determining representation, including restoring the previous ability for councils to consider land area and rateable value. He also called on councils to retain rural wards.

Mr Pedersen predicted an increasingly low turnout in local government elections while the rating burden continued to fall unevenly on the minority. The switch to the single-transferable voting system will worsen this problem, he said.


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