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Candidate may get job without vote

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2013

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A candidate standing in upcoming local body elections may be appointed as a councillor months before the election is held.

The resignation of longstanding Hawke's Bay regional councillor Eileen von Dadelszen has created a vacancy on the nine-strong council in the lead-up to the October 12 election.

Councillors must now decide whether they want to replace her.

In a paper before the council tomorrow, staff inform councillors that legislation allows a by-election only if there is more than 12 months before an election.

It says there are no statutory guidelines on selection, but there is "a longstanding convention" that, in such circumstances, the vacancy would be filled by the highest-polling unsuccessful candidate in the last election.

That would be Murray Douglas, who missed out on a seat in 2010 by 109 votes. He has said he is available for appointment should councillors choose this option.

But former Cabinet minister and Labour MP Rick Barker, who is also standing for election in October, says such an appointment would give Mr Douglas an unfair advantage.

"It's so close to the election and the general rule in most Western democracies is the government does not make significant appointments on the eve of an election," Mr Barker said.

"If they make an appointment, then electors will take that as their saying they have a preference as to who is on the council in the upcoming election. That's the issue. They know there are other candidates," he said.

If approved, Mr Douglas is likely to be appointed on June 10.

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- Wellington

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