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Council Welcomes Petition Dismissal

Council Welcomes Petition Dismissal

Judge Davidson's decision to dismiss the petition seeking to overturn Hutt City's electoral system poll result in favour of First Past The Post is the correct one, said Rik Hart, Hutt City Chief Executive.

In dismissing the petition, Judge Davidson concluded: "In the end I cannot say that in my opinion the irregularity/irregularities materially affected the poll result. Although it is a matter upon which I am entitled to express an opinion, it must be one that is sustainable on the evidence. To reach such an opinion would be unsustainable on the evidence of material affect placed before me."

"Ultimately, and while it may be unpalatable to some proponents of STV, the electors voted by a margin of nearly two to one for FPP. The considerable legal effort mounted to overturn the result of the referendum through the Courts, has not been successful," said Rik Hart.

"However, one aspect of the judgment is of concern."

Judge Davidson notes that on 10 July 2002, Council's Strategy & Policy Committee recommended that Council "do nothing but publicly notify of a right to demand a poll" and on 23 July Council adopted this resolution.

Judge Davidson then notes that on 11 March 2003 the "Council resolved to develop a publicity campaign that presents the facts about the two electoral systems available, and also presents its reservations about the wisdom of introducing an STV system".

In his judgment Judge Davidson seems to find these two positions contradictory. That suggests a lack of understanding of Council procedures. The first resolution - 'do nothing' except what was statutorily required - was about demand for the poll. The second resolution of Council was made in response to the fact that a poll had been called and, since it was inevitable, a majority of councillors determined to publicise their reservations about STV.

"Once Council resolves to do something, that becomes Council policy," said Rik Hart.

"I am satisfied that the integrity of Council's processes have been upheld, even if the judge saw fit to comment on the nature of some publicity.

"I am also very pleased at the judges finding that the Council-appointed Electoral Officer 'acted correctly throughout'.

"Council has incurred expenses of approximately $220,000 in defending this case. This is unfortunate when there are a number of community-based projects that have a high priority and budgets are under severe pressure," said Rik Hart.

"In that sense the entire exercise can be viewed as a costly waste of time."

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