Wards Decision Welcomed
12 April 2007 - For immediate release
Wards Decision Welcomed
Napier city councillor Dr Robin Gwynn said today he was delighted to welcome the decision of the Local Government Commission that Napier should have a partial ward system.
The wards, he said, should ensure that all areas of the city feel they have a voice on Council.
‘Wards offer the potential of fairer representation, a better spread of councillors, and more personal involvement by citizens.
‘It is fundamentally important that the Commission has so clearly rejected Council’s claim that Napier is just one big community of interest. The 2002 Local Government Act says that “when making a decision, a local authority should take account of the diversity of the community”. The Commission’s decision should encourage that process, and help Napier better come to terms with its extensive areas of deprivation and very distinct suburbs.
‘Some parts of the city, like Bay View, Onekawa, Pirimai, Tamatea and Te Awa have never had a resident councillor since Napier’s previous ward system was abandoned, while Napier Hill has been increasingly over-represented.
‘Council has always been good at managing. Arguably, it has been less good at representing. The partial ward system should help with that. Hopefully it will also reverse the trend that has seen voter participation slump by 10% across the past three elections.
‘I would like to think that the Commission’s decision will lead in the next term to strengthened suburban associations, more councillors holding clinics, and greater democratic participation as people realise they can help mould their own society.
‘Consultation’ means a legal process, and the Napier City Council is excellent at that. It also means on-going contact and face-to-face discussion at a local level, and the partial ward system will help that happen.
‘But first, we have to make the system work. This year’s election, and the rethinking that will have to take place as wards are bedded in, should be an exciting experience.
On a personal level, Cr Gwynn said the need to draw attention to the unsatisfactory representation arrangements in Napier had been a major reason why he had become involved in local government.
‘I expect to stand again as a councillor in the forthcoming elections, and like other councillors will have to consider my position in the light of the new arrangements.
Ironically, having been the sole voice in Council urging the need for wards, I may well have to stand ‘at large’, since my argument has been that the area of Napier where I live, on the Hill, has been over represented.’