Ward critic won't get to have say

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 20/02/2013

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The timing of the Local Government Commission's hearing of appeals against the Palmerston North City Council's intention to retain wards for this year's elections is preventing one critic from having a say.

Former city councillor and advocate for city-wide voting Vern Chettleburgh said the 10.15am start time on Friday meant he could not attend, and he was disappointed.

Only four people will speak, sandwiched between the city council's introduction and right of reply, and the hearing will be over by lunchtime.

Chettleburgh, who is also a Horizons regional councillor, said he had made it clear he could not attend after 9.30am on Friday.

"I don't want special treatment, but they're not going out of their way to help people making submissions."

But chief executive Donald Riezebos said the commissioners were doing the best they could to fit in all the hearings needed around New Zealand before the April 10 deadline for decisions.

The timing of the Palmerston North hearing had excluded two appellants who had wanted to speak, he said.

Riezebos said the commission was busy arranging hearings, travelling to Dargaville, Whangarei and Kaikohe this week, with four days in Hawke's Bay next week, and trips to Invercargill and Alexandra the week after.

"The commissioners are on the road four days this week, and 10.15am was the earliest we could get everyone to Palmerston North in healthy condition."

Two commissioners would be flying in, and the third would travel by road.

The commission also had at least a dozen decisions to make and write up, including those for Horowhenua, Timaru and Hastings.

"Many councils have gone through the process late this round."

Palmerston North had not been able to move earlier, because it needed to wait until the boundary change with Manawatu District was confirmed before completing its public consultation.

The Palmerston North appeals hearing follows months of debate about the city's representation system last year.

Initially, the council proposed the abolition of wards, relying on a 2010 non-binding referendum which narrowly favoured city-wide voting.

After hearing 50 submissions, with 28 in favour of wards, the council reversed its stand, and opted to keep them.

That decision was appealed to the Local Government Commission, which will make the final decision, as it did the last three times the council reviewed its representation arrangements.

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- Manawatu Standard

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