Focus on the Land
Council divided but opts status quo for ’13 poll
Monday, July 30, 2012
CONTINUING doubts in the minds of some city ward councillors were not enough to sway Gisborne District Council from sticking with the status quo as its final proposal for the 2013 local government elections.
The proposal would see councillor numbers and ward boundaries remain unchanged. It was carried on a voice vote and will now be publicly notified.
The council does not support community boards or Maori wards and will use the first-past-the-post voting system.
The closing date for appeals is August 27.
Councillor Pat Seymour said 63 percent of the 205 submitters were in favour of the status quo.
That was quite a sizeable majority and the council should feel quite confident in submitting its proposal to the Local Government Commission.
Allan Hall said he could not support the proposal because it flew in the face of the commission’s population to representation ratio.
There was a serious risk of an appeal.
The commission could decide things the council would not like.
“We don’t want it to go to appeal,” he said.
If the motion to adopt the proposal was lost, he would move that it adopt the alternative proposal recommended by staff.
Alan Davidson said he was not in the country when the submissions were heard. For that reason he abstained from voting.
Andy Cranston said apart from Patutahi-Taruheru, the average number of voters to a councillor was 1894 in the other five rural wards, compared with 4125 in the city. These numbers were too far out of whack.
Manu Caddie said it was unfortunate that submitters would get only a generic letter when many of them had put a lot of work into their submission. This was a sad day for democracy.
Roger Haisman said it was a sad day for democracy because at the review six years ago, the council stood firm and made a unanimous decision in favour of the status quo.
It was sad that the city representatives, with the exception of Craig Bauld, had decided how people in outlying areas should be represented.
Mayor Meng Foon said it was not only an issue of the population ratio but of access to a councillor. The eight city ward councillors could get anywhere in five or 10 minutes — a rural councillor might have to travel one to two hours just to reach a constituent. Access to a representative was a core value of democracy.
Graeme Thomson was quite confident the council could make a submission for the status quo. What they were proposing was not illegal and if the commissioners came up with an alternative proposal, the council could put a case forward. He did not want to go down in history as the person who sold off the Cook ward.
Nona Aston said while she remained opposed to community boards, she felt the council should give more consideration to the possibility of Maori wards in the future.
Patrick Tangaere said he did not believe Maori understood what having Maori wards would mean. The East Coast would have two councillors compared with three now.
Bill Burdett said rural councillors knew their people. They were not slow in coming forward, particularly Ngati Porou.
At a meeting he heard one speaker say Pat Seymour would have to die before they would get rid of her.
“As a unit we don’t do a bad job,” he said.
“This representation thing has scared me.”
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