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Ward Decision Sensible

Ward Decision Sensible

8 December 2006

Farmers are pleased and relieved at the Local Government Commission’s decision to retain the existing electoral system for New Plymouth District Council, said Don Nicolson, Vice President of Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

The council had proposed that New Plymouth district would no longer be divided into wards, meaning that rural areas would lose assured representation on the council.

Federated Farmers opposed the change to an ‘at large’ system and appealed it to the Local Government Commission.

The commission made its decision “in order to provide effective representation of communities of interest and fair representation”.

“This is a sensible decision and a victory for democracy,” Mr Nicolson said.

“Adopting an at-large system posed a risk that the council would be dominated by interests of New Plymouth city, as the majority of voters live in New Plymouth and vote for high profile urban candidates. These votes would swamp the rural vote.

“When county and borough councils were amalgamated rural wards were created so that this wouldn’t happen. In recent times, however, an increasing number of councils are removing rural wards.

“The farming community, as big ratepayers, would be at risk of being rated without representation. Their expectations of council – mainly to provide a decent road network – wouldn’t get the priority they deserve or reflect the rates paid.

“The Taranaki example sets a good precedent for other councils thinking of adopting an ‘at large’ voting system – which can only operate in compact, homogenous areas.

“Federated Farmers is hopeful of winning further appeals in other council areas which have decided to scrap their rural wards or otherwise reduce rural representation,” Mr Nicolson said.


Ends

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