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Public Encouraged To Have Say On Hastings District Council’s Representation Proposal

Hastings district councillors today approved an initial proposal for the ongoing representation of the Hastings district, which will soon go out for formal public consultation.

Following the decision to adopt Māori wards in May this year, the council was required to undertake a representation review to determine the number of councillors, whether to have wards or mix of wards and an at-large voting system, ward boundaries, numbers of councillors from each ward, and whether or not to have community boards, ahead of the next triennial local government elections in 2022.

Today’s decision followed thorough debate and introduces a single Māori ward across the entire district, called Takitimu, proposing that the number of councillors be increased by one to 15 from 14, plus the mayor, and makes some minor boundary changes to the existing five wards that otherwise will remain the same.

The Rural Community Board would be retained in its current form with minor adjustments to boundaries.

Under the proposal, electors on the Māori roll would vote for (up to) three candidates standing in the Takitimu Māori ward and also the mayor.

Twelve members would be elected from the other five wards. This would be a reduction of the current number of members from those wards – the Flaxmere ward would reduce from two to one representative, and there would be seven rather than eight councillors for the Hastings/Havelock North ward.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst encouraged people to give feedback on the proposal.

“Our council had a clear mandate from the community to introduce Māori wards earlier this year. We believe this proposal best ensures we have a representation model that reflects the diverse communities within our district and provides them with an effective voice around the council table.

“We looked at many options and variations, and we received valuable feedback from our stakeholders and community in the pre-engagement process to come up with this preferred option. Councillors largely believed that this arrangement would most fairly and effectively represent our district of 88,000 people across over 5000 square kilometres.

“It’s now the community’s turn to let us know what they think, and we look forward to hearing their views.”

Group manager strategy and development Craig Cameron said a significant amount of work had gone into considering communities of interest in the district, and identifying options for achieving effective and fair representation for those communities and the individuals within them.

The proposal was also informed by preliminary community engagement that was undertaken to gauge community views in relation to representation arrangements – including online feedback options and community hui.

“This work enabled us to narrow down of the wide range of options and variations available, and present three options to council,” he said.

The other options were to introduce a Māori ward with three members and reduce the number of councillors in the Hastings/Havelock North ward by two, with the rest remaining the same, or decrease the seats in Hastings/Havelock North ward to six, Flaxmere to one and combine the Heretaunga, Kahurānaki and Mohaka wards into one rural ward with three seats.

While it could have opted to merge wards and communities of interest together, it was considered that ensuring a distinct voice around the council table for distinct communities such as Flaxmere and the rural areas of the district was vitally important.

The preferred proposal will now be notified for public consultation, which will be open from August 30 to October 1. Council will consider these submissions, potentially make changes to the initial proposal, and then publicly notify it again. Any appeals or objections would go to the Local Government Commission who would either accept or reject the proposal.

People will be able to get more information and give feedback through the www.myvoicemychoice.co.nz website.

Once Council facilities are open again at Level 2, people will also be able to fill in submission forms that will be available at the customer service centre at Lyndon Rd, council libraries and community centres.

Please follow government guidelines on social distancing and mask wearing when visiting council facilities, depending on the COVID-19 Alert Levels in place at the time.

© Scoop Media

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