Time to speak up
Our moment has come.
Rural people in our region, it might be time to sharpen the pitchforks and march on town.
That might be a bit dramatic, but the council's decision this week to remove the dedicated representation of rural people on our council should have you all on the grinding stone with sparks flying.
As rural people in a rural-based economy, we value the fact that we have a dedicated representative at the council table.
Our rural councillors are dedicated. They hold a candle to decisions and discussion at a local level and make sure that the views and concerns of rural people are represented.
With urban-based councillors voting in favour of removing this dedicated representation, I hold grave fears for us as rural ratepayers.
We have already seen that our council, rural councillors aside, are willing to sacrifice our rural roading network in favour of more popular cycleways and a swimming pool.
As a rural voter, if you think things will improve with the proposed voting structure, think again.
The urban spin will be this.
You might stand eight candidates that are rural based to have a majority.
True, but incredibly unlikely.
It is more likely that we will have little to no representation.
Even more so because we are moving to a Single Transferable Vote (STV).
Joe Bloggs on the street does not understand the way this works, which will further diminish the already low voter turnout.
The formation of dedicated Maori seats was always going to cause some councillors to lose their jobs. You cannot fit 13 into eight.
It is purely jealousy and a fear for losing their jobs that the vote went this way.
There is a belief that our rural councillors who stand unopposed are lucky no one wanted to stand against them. What a load of crap.
Speaking for my ward of Uawa/Tawhiti with Pat Seymour as our representative, no one stands against her because we think she does an amazing job.
She is dedicated and happy to turn up to community meetings all over her represented area.
What are the chances of an urban-based councillor turning up to your community meeting? Or to put it differently, what are the chances of the same councillor turning up to your community meetings so they have their finger on the pulse of the community, rather than a different one each time who might not know the whole situation?
Communities will soon lose interest and give up.
This is why we need dedicated representation.
We supported the formation of dedicated Maori seats on our council under one condition — that we would not see a loss in rural representation.
For us, option two was the best fit for our region moving forward.
That being said we do not believe that it is our place to decide on the Maori seats. That is for those who will vote on them to decide.
We would be happy to support any arrangement of those seats provided that we retain at least a northern and western ward to represent our views as non-Maori seat-voting people.
Federated Farmers will be hosting community meetings to discuss what we need to do to submit against this proposal. Times and dates will follow.
If you are not happy about losing your councillor then you need to have a voice and tell the council why we need rural representation.
Come to one of our meetings and we will help you through the process.
Feds are happy to support Maori rural voters to be represented on the council, be that by at-large with a rural/urban split.
Don't let the council tell you how to be represented. Make sure your voices are heard and listened to.
To the council, thanks to our rural councillors for the work you do for us, we appreciate everything you do.
To Rehette and Josh, thank you for having our councillors' backs and realising the importance of the work they do and the differing views they bring to the table.
To the rest of our councillors who voted for this option I say, “should this decision be ratified after the consultation period, we will be challenging the decision and seeking to have the local body commissioner overturn this in favour of retaining some form of dedicated rural representation”.
The decision rests with you to listen to what our community wants or to have the decision given to someone else.