Prospect of a better council

EDITORIAL

Not only will we have a smaller council governance team that can make decisions more efficiently and effectively, but its members should be better qualified for the job.

That is the enticing prospect of a shake-up of our representation model that is highly likely to be ushered in by the Local Government Commission (which is now expected to make its decision for our District Council’s governance arrangements around the end of this month).

To recap, councils have to review their representation model at least once every six years. Population-equivalence requirements for ward systems has led to an expanding number of councillors here, as representatives of shrinking rural areas strived to keep as strong a voice as possible at the table.

After submissions were received last year on an initial proposal that tried to maintain the status quo of ward representation — having to shoehorn northern parts of the Poverty Bay Flats into the southern East Coast ward to do so, as well as add another city ward member for a total of 14 councillors — the council settled on a new proposal: councillor numbers dropping from 13 to nine, all elected “at large”, and the introduction of three six-member community boards (four elected, two appointed), for East Coast, western rural and the city.

This is an orthodox representation model that seems well-suited to this district so, despite strongly-worded submissions in opposition from some rural people, it should be approved. Debate will then turn quickly to what powers will be delegated to the community boards — something the council decided to leave unanswered until it knows this is the model being followed.

It is well-known that governance boards function best when they are smaller, with 10 or more members generally considered too many (our council would total 10 with the mayor; a far better number than 15).

Come the election in October, candidates will face a significantly higher barrier to entry, in the number of votes they need to attract, than in the past.

And in the meantime, the prospect of a more competitive election for a smaller, more effective council should have some people who would not otherwise have stood, deciding to do so.

Not only will we have a smaller council governance team that can make decisions more efficiently and effectively, but its members should be better qualified for the job.

That is the enticing prospect of a shake-up of our representation model that is highly likely to be ushered in by the Local Government Commission (which is now expected to make its decision for our District Council’s governance arrangements around the end of this month).

To recap, councils have to review their representation model at least once every six years. Population-equivalence requirements for ward systems has led to an expanding number of councillors here, as representatives of shrinking rural areas strived to keep as strong a voice as possible at the table.

After submissions were received last year on an initial proposal that tried to maintain the status quo of ward representation — having to shoehorn northern parts of the Poverty Bay Flats into the southern East Coast ward to do so, as well as add another city ward member for a total of 14 councillors — the council settled on a new proposal: councillor numbers dropping from 13 to nine, all elected “at large”, and the introduction of three six-member community boards (four elected, two appointed), for East Coast, western rural and the city.

This is an orthodox representation model that seems well-suited to this district so, despite strongly-worded submissions in opposition from some rural people, it should be approved. Debate will then turn quickly to what powers will be delegated to the community boards — something the council decided to leave unanswered until it knows this is the model being followed.

It is well-known that governance boards function best when they are smaller, with 10 or more members generally considered too many (our council would total 10 with the mayor; a far better number than 15).

Come the election in October, candidates will face a significantly higher barrier to entry, in the number of votes they need to attract, than in the past.

And in the meantime, the prospect of a more competitive election for a smaller, more effective council should have some people who would not otherwise have stood, deciding to do so.

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Clive Bibby - 5 days ago
It is of concern that the Editor of this newspaper should be so dismissive of the submissions made to the Local Government Commission by a predominantly rural group of ratepayers. More so, does he have prior knowledge of the outcome of the commission's deliberations?
If not, you might ask whether his arrogant portrayal of those representations offered as part of the democratic process when considering electoral reform would have been so offensive had he been referring to ones made by a group of mainly iwi representatives trying to maintain existing status and access to the decision makers. I think not!
However, his editorial does demonstrate how ignorant he and the councillors who voted in support of the council's recommendation are of how rural communities work and depend on one another for their survival. If the editor had known what he was talking about, he would have kept his mouth shut or even backed our submissions. No surprises there.
Our editor seems to forget, or probably has never taken the time to appreciate, that all we in the country are asking for is fair representation around the council table by some of our own kind when decisions are made that affect us all.
We are not asking for an increase in numbers of rural councillors who know what is important to the people they represent. Nor are we asking for a continuation of a time when our rural councillors could be elected from wards with insufficient numbers of electors under the law.
It would appear that under the proposed change recommended by council, rural ratepayers in this region are considered to be second-class citizens even though we contribute substantially to our pastoral economy. Some would say that our contribution in that respect should entitle rural ratepayers to at least equal representation on council to the numbers our city cousins enjoy.
Instead we are being asked to accept a token contemptuous offer of community boards which are proposed as sufficient to satisfy our needs. It is insulting but sadly not unexpected from a council and media that is becoming far more partial in the way they conduct their business.
Perhaps the editor is right about one thing - the prospect of a more competitive election should ensure that we will have the opportunity to select from a greater number of candidates who actually respect the people they are elected to represent.
Time for a change.

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