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Onus on rural and Maori-roll voters

Editorial

People with a view on how they want to be represented on Gisborne District Council have 13 days to potentially influence council thinking on representation arrangements for the next two local-body elections, after the council yesterday extended the deadline for submissions by one week.

This opportunity is particularly important for rural residents and Maori-roll voters, who the council will be especially wanting to hear from to help them in considering whether their 8-6 decision on an initial representation proposal is supported by the public.

Our rural and Maori-roll voters are the ones most affected by agreed and proposed changes; noting here that the decision to establish Maori Ward/s has already been made and the council is not consulting on this. Rather, through the representation review it is consulting on how they will be implemented.

After a first round of consultation, councillors voted with a slim majority for a proposal that would end the rural ward system which has been in place since the former city council and three county councils were amalgamated in 1989 to become Gisborne District Council.

Instead it opted for an initial proposal where, in addition to the Mayor, 13 councillors would be elected “at large”. Gisborne District Council would be divided into two wards, both covering the whole district — Tairawhiti General Ward, represented by eight councillors; and Tairawhiti Maori Ward, represented by five councillors.

The council also decided not to establish community boards, based on opposition expressed in the first consultation round . . . although that was before their surprise initial decision to axe rural wards.

It’s noteworthy that when the council sent an at-large voting proposal to the Local Government Commission three years ago, which was rejected, it included the introduction of community boards to provide this avenue of representation for the distinct communities of interest around our region . . . . So everyone with a view on community boards should also participate by submitting.

Submissions on the initial representation review proposal close on Friday, September 24.

A submission form has been posted to all households and is also available for filling out on the council website: www.gdc.govt.nz

A hearing to consider the submissions is scheduled for October 6, with the final proposal due to be adopted on November 4 — and a period for objections and appeals until November 26.