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No changes proposed to Council's representation arrangements

8 May 2012

No changes proposed to Council's representation arrangements

Submissions are now open on the review of Gisborne District Council’s representation arrangements. Residents and ratepayers are encouraged to have their say on the ‘no change’ proposal.

Community meetings will be held in Ruatoria on Wednesday, Te Karaka on Thursday 17 May and at the HB Williams Library on Tuesday 22 May. A flyer that outlines the proposal has been sent to every address in the district this week and includes a submission form. Mayor Meng Foon hopes to see a good turn out at these meetings. “There is quite a lot to the review. The meetings will be a good place to get your questions answered and tell us what you think. Councillors have looked at the options and we think we have the arrangements about right. We also know they don’t line up with what the Local Government Commission recommends.”

The proposal would see Council keeping the current fourteen councillors elected from seven wards with the existing boundaries. The mayor is elected from the whole district. One councillor is elected from Taruheru-Patutahi, Cook, Waikohu, Uawa, Waiapu and Matakaoa wards and eight councillors are elected from the Gisborne city ward.

Council is required by the Local Electoral Act 2001 to look at how many councillors should represent the district, how they should be voted for - by ward or district wide, whether the district should have community boards or Māori wards and which electoral system to use.

Council decided last year not to establish Māori wards and to stick with the First-Past-the-Post electoral system.

In March Council considered a proposal to keep the status quo and an alternative proposal that would reduce the number of wards from seven to five and the number of councillors from fourteen to twelve.

The status quo was chosen because each ward represents a community of interest. Mayor Foon says the issues important to the residents at the top of the East Cape in the Matakaoa ward are quite different to what’s important to Patutahi-Taruheru residents. “We thought about the agreements made when Council amalgamated in 1989 and became the country’s first unitary authority. We are a big district, people are spread out and some communities are quite isolated. We think we need to keep the seven wards to ensure the whole district is covered.”

The alternative proposal was put to Council because the current arrangements leave many of the rural areas over represented and the city under represented according to the Local Government Commission recommendations. They say that to be fair for each ward a Councillor must represent the same number of people, plus or minus 10 percent. In the Gisborne district this would mean that each Councillor would need to represent between 2,993 and 3,658 people. Under the current arrangements city ward Councillors represent 4,125 people. The Cook ward Councillor represents 1,780 people.

Submissions can be made to support or oppose the current representation arrangement.Submissions close 4pm 15 June 2012.