Maori wards plan
A representation review at Gisborne District Council triggered by the introduction of Māori wards has attracted a total of 132 appeals and objections from the community.
In November 2020, the council decided to establish the wards for the next two elections in 2022 and 2025, which activated the requirement for a review.
The Local Government Commision confirmed on Thursday it had received eight appeals and 124 objections by the January 15 deadline.
Councils are required to complete a representation review at least once every six years, and the commission confirmed that this round had seen 44 councils undertaking theirs.
The lowest number of appeals and objections received for the round was zero, and the highest number was 180.
“Within the range of appeals (and) objections received in this round of representation reviews, 132 is on the higher side,” a Local Government Commission spokesperson said of Tairāwhiti's numbers.
It is now up to the commission to make a determination on the council's representation arrangements by April, with the possibility of a hearing being held prior to a decision.
The road to the council deciding on its final proposal wasn't without its twists and turns.
In November, Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz had the casting vote after councillor Isaac Hughes changed his mind late in the piece.
Hughes ultimately supported the proposal for a two-seat general rural ward and six-seat city ward, rather than at-large voting in a single general ward, which would see the dissolution of separate rural representation.
His change of heart meant the council was split down the middle, seven-seven, on how to proceed.
Mayor Stoltz, who had previously opted for at-large voting the last time the issue was brought to the table at a representation review in 2018, voted to retain rural representation this time around.
Speaking to Local Democracy Reporting on Thursday, she said making her first casting vote was “not easy”.
“Ultimately at council you aim to have your group decide about something and have a consensus. But that's not how democracy works because each one of us brings different views from our different backgrounds, educations, and lived experiences.
“This was one of those examples where everyone felt strong about their view.”
A decision to introduce Māori wards had already been made in late 2020, meaning the November vote was a decision over the retention or cessation of rural seats.
The breakdown of councillors — eight general ward and five Māori ward — is based on the electoral population of Tairāwhiti.
There are 19,000 people on the Māori electoral roll and 31,000 on the general roll.
Registration on the Māori electoral roll is a requirement for voting in Māori wards.
According to the council, the 2018 representation review drew one appeal and 58 objections from the community, with the objections resulting from the final proposal being different to the initial.
The 2012 review was met with 14 appeals but no objections, because the final proposal was the same as the initial proposal.
A final decision on representation arrangements for the next two elections is expected in April.