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Northland Regional Council changes to empower communities

21 August, 2012

Regional council changes look to empower communities

Northland’s regional councillors are suggesting a more community-focussed way to how they represent Northlanders – abandoning an ‘outdated’ current model based on the three district boundaries and replacing it with eight, smaller constituencies.

As part of the proposed revamp, the number of regional councillors would also increase by one to nine – but the cost of that extra councillor would be covered within councillors’ existing $388,840 salary pool. (Nine councillors to share the same money currently paid to eight.)

The moves are designed to strengthen the representation Northlanders get at the council table and aim to empower communities to both better serve their own needs and aspirations and contribute to regional decision-making.

Regional council chairman Craig Brown says every six years councils are legally required to review the way residents are represented at the council table.

“Called a ‘representation review’, this looks at the total number of councillors to be elected, where the boundaries are for the areas (or constituencies) each councillor will be elected from, how many councillors will be elected from each constituency and what the names of these constituencies will be.”

“This review is a legal requirement, but after lengthy discussions over the past six months or so, my fellow councillors and I believe it’s time to move to a more equitable structure that better reflects the diversity of the region. Our current representation arrangements have been in place for more than 20 years; they’re outdated, ineffective and due for an overhaul.”

Outlined in an ‘initial proposal’ adopted by councillors at their monthly meeting in Whangarei today, (subs: Tues 21 August) the three current constituencies – Whangarei, Far North and Kaipara – would be replaced with eight new constituencies, spreading representation more evenly across the entire region.

Seven of those eight constituencies will be represented by a single councillor, but due to the number of people who live it in, Whangarei – the region’s only city – would have two representatives. Typically each councillor would represent somewhere between about 15,800 and 19,300 people.

“By creating a greater number of smaller, more localised constituencies across the whole region, the council wants to strengthen the representation Northlanders get at the council table,” Mr Brown says.

The proposed new constituencies are:

Te Hiku; The northern-most part of the region. Includes the area from Mangonui to the northern side of Whangape Harbour, Kaitaia and up to Cape Reinga.
Hokianga-Kaikohe; The upper/central part of the region from Kaihu. Includes both the Whangape and Hokianga Harbours and Kaikohe.
Coastal North; The upper central/eastern part of the region from the Kerikeri Inlet through to Taupo Bay, and including Kerikeri township.
Coastal Central; The central/eastern part of the region, from just south of the Kerikeri Inlet down to Matapouri and includes Kawakawa, Paihia, Russell and Opua.
Hikurangi-Bream Head; The lower central/eastern part of the region between Tutukaka and Bream Head. It also includes Glenbervie and Hikurangi.
Whangarei Urban; The Whangarei metropolitan area.
Coastal South; The south/eastern part of the region between Mangawhai and Kokopu. Includes Kaiwaka, Mangawhai Heads, Waipu and Ruakaka.
Kaipara; The south/western part of the region between the Kaipara Harbour and Maropiu. Includes Dargaville, Ruawai and Maungaturoto.

Mr Brown says Northland has had a tough time economically in recent years and the stark reality is it will not truly prosper unless our smaller communities prosper.

“We must start with the right democratic structure to kick start this change.”

He says Northland needs a forward-looking democratic structure that will support council’s drive for prosperity and equity while maintaining and protecting its unique and treasured environment.

“Northland will not reach its full potential if we are not fully engaged and working more closely with our communities.”

Regional council Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Nicolson says in drawing the proposed boundaries for the new constituencies, the council looked at range of factors.

These included where Northlanders felt a ‘sense of identity’, similarities in demographic, socio-economic and ethnic characteristics, river catchments, significant roads and topographical features, land use and shared facilities such as schools, marae, shops and recreational facilities.

He says the review process will include a one month period for public consultation beginning Saturday, 01 September.

“Council staff are available to talk to interested community groups and stakeholders – and people should contact us on (0800) 002 004 to arrange.”

Mr Nicolson says from Saturday, 01 September members of the public will also be able to visit the council’s website www.nrc.govt.nz/representationreview to learn more about the initial proposal. Copies of the proposal will also be available from all regional council offices in Whangarei, Dargaville, Opua and Kaitaia.

Submissions need to be with the council by Monday, 01 0ctober.

“After that, there will be public hearings, before the council adopts a final proposal.”

Mr Brown says that final proposal will then be sent to the Local Government Commission to be finalised in time for local authority elections in October next year.

Click for big version.

A graphic showing the proposed eight new constituencies the Northland Regional Council is suggesting as part of its newly-announced proposed representation review. Current district boundaries – which the eight new constituencies would replace - are indicated in green (Kaipara), red (Whangarei) and blue (Far North). (Subs: Note the proposed Whangarei Urban constituency is shown in its own box, top right of graphic.)


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