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Number of councillors to be decided by Local Government Commission

13 Aug 2012

Number of councillors to be decided by Local Government Commission

A decision about how many councillors should represent the Gisborne district will be decided by the Local Government Commission.

Appeals have been received against Gisborne District Council’s decision on its final proposal to keep the current representation arrangements of 14 councillors and a Mayor. Eight councillors represent Gisborne city and the 6 rural wards each have one councillor.

People who made a submission against Council’s initial proposal have until 28 August 2012 to appeal against the final proposal. The appeals are then forwarded to the Local Government Commission. The Commission only need to receive one appeal before they get involved. They consider Local Electoral Act guidelines, reports to Council, all submissions made and the options Council looked at. They will then decide on Gisborne district representation arrangements for the next local body election. A decision from the Local Government Commission will be received before 10 April 2013.

Council consulted on keeping the current arrangements - which includes using the First-Past-the-Post electoral system, no Māori wards and no community boards - in May and June this year. Council received 205 submissions of which 130 supported the current arrangements and 72 opposed them. After listening to 13 people speak to their submission Council voted 8 councillors to 6 in favour of keeping the status quo.

The decision was based on the challenges of effectively representing people across the large area of the district, its remoteness, sparse population and relative isolation. Also considered was providing the best opportunity for Māori to be elected on Council and reflecting the fact that Gisborne District Council is a unitary council looking after both regional and territorial functions.

Submitters who opposed the status quo proposal mentioned the fact that the current arrangements do not meet the Local Electoral Act’s requirement for fair representation, a perceived bias in council decisions benefitting rural residents and that the city population is under represented despite paying the majority of rates. 33 submitters felt Council should adopt a model that is close to complying with Local Electoral Act’s guidelines. This would see the number of councillors reduced to 12 and some wards merged so that there were only 4 rural wards.

The Local Electoral Act guidelines state 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 a city ward councillor represents 4,125 people. The Cook ward councillor represents 1,780 people.