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Rural concerns on review to Minister

FEDERATED Farmers provincial president Toby Williams has approached Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta about extending the consultation period for the council's representation review.

He made the approach through East Coast MP Kiri Allan.

Mr Williams said the federation wanted to host a series of community meetings to discuss the council proposal to create a local body election structure that would involve the Mayor and 13 councillors.

It has been proposed the representation will comprise five Maori councillors and eight general ward councillors in a Tairawhiti Maori ward and a Tairawhiti general ward.

Rural wards would cease to exist.

“The representation review proposals will be a significant change to how we elect our representatives and concerned rural people want to be heard on it,” Mr Williams said.

“We want the GDC to extend the consultation period to a time that we are able to host some community meetings, hopefully under Level 2.

“This lockdown period is not the council's fault. It is just unfortunate it has occurred during the consultation period and looks likely to continue right through the current allocated time period.”

Mr Williams said council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann was contacted about it.

“She said the statutory timeframes around representation reviews cannot be moved unless the Government suspends them.

“For us, this is a significant issue and we need to have a period where meaningful consultation can take place.

“We should be able to consult widely with rural people so there is an opportunity for them to understand the consequences of what the council is proposing and give them the opportunity to make an informed submission.

“I have put a request through to the Local Government Minister and through to our local MP Kiri Allan to hopefully get this consultation period extended.”

Mr Williams' full statement on what he proposes features in Focus on the Land on page 16.

■ Concerns about the lockdown-affected consultation period on the representation review came up at last week's full district council meeting.

Taruheru-Patutahi ward councillor Sandra Faulkner said rural voters needed to be engaged during the review consultation period.

Those voters were affected by “the dedicated loss of rural representation,” she said at the full Gisborne District Council meeting, held via Zoom.

Cr Faulkner said the council needed to ensure the voice of rural constituents was heard.

It was “interesting” that those most affected would not be able to engage in the consultation period as they would ordinarily.

Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said other councils were in the same position.

“It is what it is,” she said.

The same methods would be used as for consultation with the Annual Plan, which happened during lockdown last year.

The council would provide hard copy information and use social media.

Ms Thatcher Swann said she was open to suggestions to allow the council to reach the rural community safely.

Public consultation ends on September 16.

The council will consider and adopt the final proposal on October 21.

Public notification of the final proposal for appeals and objections will be between October 26 and November 26.