Considering a new GDC ward structure
Uncertainty over implications for our District Council ward structure from the introduction of Maori wards is a legitimate concern for rural residents wanting to be sure they continue to have separate representation (just like Maori want).
With the council unable to say much more than the answers will come from a representation review process, your editor is keen to consider potential ward structures.
The starting point is the council has said we have a Maori electoral population of 17,562 and general electoral population of 29,955, based on the 2018 Census (these numbers have since been updated by the Local Government Commission to 18,900 and 31,800); which meant “assuming a total of 13 councillors remain”, five would be elected from one or more Maori wards. The council has also shown a determination to keep rural wards.
At the last representation review in 2018/2019 the council attempted to resolve the issue of declining shares of population in the two East Coast rural wards by first wrapping the Tawhiti-Uawa ward around the city to Back Ormond Road; then proposed introducing three community boards and reducing councillor numbers from 13 to nine, plus the mayor, elected at large.
The Local Government Commission rejected this final proposal, saying community boards had not been adequately canvassed, and nine councillors seemed too few for the committee structure required for a unitary authority (to have separation of decision-making on regulatory and non-regulatory responsibilities). It gave its approval to the status-quo ward structure, allowing the two East Coast wards to breach the +/- 10 percent rule for the populations of each ward — by -23.1 percent and -21.6 percent.
The regional population then was 46,570, based on 2017 population estimates, with 35,300 in the city.
Population estimates now are 50,700 for the region and 38,500 for the city. This equates to an average 3900 per ward; and with the share of population living outside the city having slightly declined again (and before considering Maori wards), a fair representation for the 12,200 in our rural areas would involve a reduction from four wards to three (at 4067 per ward).
If our rural Maori electoral population was about one third of the 12,200, +/- 10 percent, we could have one Maori rural ward, two general rural wards, and an increase to 10 city ward seats — four elected via the Maori roll and six via the general roll. It will be higher than this, though (with 37.3 percent of the total regional population on the Maori roll), so we could potentially have one Maori ward for the whole district with five seats, two general rural wards, and six seats for a general city ward.