War of wards left in commission's hands

The Local Government Commission will make the final decision on whether or not Palmerston North city councillors will be elected from wards or city-wide next year.

The first of several appeals to be lodged against the council's majority decision to retain wards was received yesterday.

Legal counsel John Annabell said he could not release the name of the appellant, but two former city councillors, Vern Chettleburgh and Jill White, said they would be lodging appeals.

The appeal means the commission will have the final say on Palmerston North's representation arrangements for next year.

The deadline for appeals and objections is December 20.

After that, the commission will decide whether to hold a public hearing, which is what happened on each of the past three occasions when the council reviewed the voting system.

The commission has to make its decision by April 10 in time for arrangements to be put in place for the October 12 elections.

Mr Chettleburgh said his appeal was based on the premise that Palmerston North was one city, with one community or interest, and should not be dissected by ward boundaries.

"And I still believe we will get more ethnic mix on the council with city-wide voting, and that's important."

He did not want to see an urban-rural split either.

He and Ms White said the ward system was also unfair, in that some voters had a part in electing two councillors, while others had three or four councillors, depending on which ward they lived in.

Ms White said Palmerston North was still small enough for it to be reasonable for voters to get to know enough about all of the council candidates to be able to choose who to vote for.

The council's final proposal to retain wards was publicly advertised at the weekend, signalling the beginning of the appeals process.

Because it overturned its earlier proposal to abolish wards, it opens the way for anyone to lodge an objection, whether or not they were part of the submissions process.

There were 50 submissions received, with 28 supporting the retention of wards, and some preferring a mixed system.

Mayor Jono Naylor and deputy mayor Jim Jefferies were outvoted by the balance of council earlier this month when the final decision favouring retention of the ward system was made.

Manawatu Standard