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Rapid Population Growth Causes Council Ward Rethink

Rapid population growth in parts of Canterbury has led the regional council to look at rejigging its ward structure.

Environment Canterbury is reviewing the ward boundaries in response to population distribution in Greater Christchurch.

No change is planned for the North Canterbury ward.

The Canterbury regional council is seeking feedback on three options for its ward structure ahead of the 2025 local government election.

The present structure has seven wards, each with two councillors, including four wards in Christchurch city.

Environment Canterbury governance general manager Lisa Goodman said the existing wards do not meet the criteria for an even spread of population per councillor.

‘‘The most obvious and straightforward change we’re proposing is minor adjustments to our constituency boundaries in Ōtautahi/Christchurch to align them with Christchurch City Council ward boundaries.’’

Canterbury’s population is 666,300, but it is not evenly spread across the seven wards.

Three of the four Christchurch wards and the Ōpākihi/Mid-Canterbury ward all have more than 100,000 residents, while the Ōtuhituhi/South Canterbury ward has just 65,000.

The Ōpukepuke/North Canterbury ward has a population of 87,000 and covers the Waimakariri, Hurunui and Kaikōura districts.

The Mid-Canterbury ward comprises the Selwyn and Ashburton districts, while the South Canterbury ward includes the Timaru, Mackenzie and Waimate districts and part of the Waitaki district.

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Environment Canterbury is proposing adjusting the Christchurch ward boundaries, and changing the Mid-Canterbury and South Canterbury wards to address the population discrepancies.

Options included merging the Mid-Canterbury and South Canterbury wards, or the combining the South Canterbury ward with the Ashburton district and creating a new Selwyn ward.

If the option of merging the Mid-Canterbury and South Canterbury wards was adopted, the new ward would have four councillors.

The North Canterbury ward is set to remain the same.

All councils are required by law to complete a representation review every six years.

The status of the two Ngāi Tahu councillors is not being considered in the consultation, as this is subject to central Government legislation.

Environment Canterbury voted not to establish a separate Māori ward last year, after consulting with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Papatipu Rūnanga.

Councillors have also decided to stick with the first-past-the-post voting system, in preference to STV, for the 2025 and 2028 local elections.

Feedback on proposed changes closes on May 26.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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