Ward voting here to stay - for now

After months of debate, the decision to retain wards for next year's Palmerston North City Council elections was rubber-stamped last night without a comment.

Mayor Jono Naylor and deputy mayor Jim Jefferies were the only ones to hold out until the end in favour of city-wide voting.

Cr Chris Teo-Sherrell could not vote because he made a submission, Cr Vaughan Dennison was ineligible because he did not hear all the submissions, and Cr Nikki Guy was not present.

The council held an extraordinary meeting to adopt 14 recommendations to give effect to the representation arrangements for the 2013 election.

It was working against the clock to ensure it could publicly advertise its final proposal by November 19. The proposal will then be open to appeal.

Anyone can lodge an appeal or objection with the Local Government Commission because the council overturned its earlier proposal to move to city-wide voting after the majority of submissions - 28 out of 50 - supported wards.

The closing date for appeals is December 20. Any appeals would have to be heard and decided on by April 10 next year in order to have arrangements in place in time for the local government elections.

As well as retaining wards, the decision maintains the number of councillors at 15, adjusts the boundaries of the five existing wards, and resolves not to have any community boards.

The council acknowledges the city comprises several separate communities of interest, and that wards are "more likely" to be representative of the communities. If the wards system survives the appeals process, the voting system will still be in line for a further review.

The council recommends that alternative ward options be developed for the incoming 2013 council to consider, in order to propose improvements for the 2016 elections.

Several submitters have called for wards to be smaller, to more closely align with the city's neighbourhoods, often clustered around the local primary school.

Others proposed some sort of mixed system, with some councillors elected from wards, and others at large across the city, while there were also calls for separate rural representation.

Manawatu Standard