'Silver lining' to boundary shift

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 09:00 19/04/2014

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Rangitikei election candidates have welcomed the shift of Shannon and Tokomaru into their electorate, but the change isn't so popular in Horowhenua.

The Representation Commission has confirmed the move, which comes after last year's census indicated the existing Rangitikei boundaries were too far below the average population for electorates.

To compensate, 2400 voters were moved from Otaki into Rangitikei.

The Horowhenua District Council, which had made a submission opposing the boundary change, was disappointed but accepted the decision, chief executive David Clapperton said.

"The feedback we received from residents of Tokomaru and Shannon was that they would have preferred to remain in the Otaki electorate."

He said having the towns in a different electorate would not have a negative impact on the northern part of Horowhenua as long as the council continued to engage with MPs, now including the Rangitikei representative.

Horowhenua mayor Brendan Duffy said although he would have been happier for the boundary not to change, there was a silver lining.

"We now have two members of Parliament within the Horowhenua district. That's important to us and that will give us the opportunity to have them work on issues that are significant to our district."

However, Miranui ward councillor Ross Campbell said residents were split on which electorate they wanted to be in.

"I think Shannon itself, being quite a strong Labour centre, and the farming area - being Tokomaru, Opiki and so on - being a strong National centre, there was great diversity in who wanted to go where.

Not so much Shannon, but most of the Tokomaru, Opiki, Makerua areas do most of their shopping and business work north. They don't come south to Levin."

Both the National and Labour candidates for Rangitikei were happy with the change.

National Party MP Ian McKelvie said Shannon and Tokomaru were not dissimilar to other farming areas and rural towns in the rest of the electorate.

Although the changes meant the electorate was bigger in a geographical sense, he did not believe the towns would be neglected.

"Shannon is very similar to some of my other rural towns, so I guess other than half an hour and quite a lot of people, it's probably not the end of the world."

Labour candidate Deborah Russell welcomed the change. ‘Shannon is physically close to the Rangitikei electorate and as the Labour Party we've got a team approach. We've been working in Shannon with our Otaki colleagues and we'll continue to do that."

She said the party would remain involved in the town. "We had the whole Labour team door knocking in Shannon just last weekend. We're not about to forget that part of the electorate."

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However, Labour's candidate for the Otaki electorate, Rob McCann, was not pleased. "We put in a submission along with the Horowhenua council suggesting that both Shannon and Tokomaru look toward Levin and Horowhenua and we were very disappointed to learn that they have shifted out."

He said the towns' residents went to Levin rather than Palmerston North. Otaki MP Nathan Guy did not return calls asking for comment.

- Manawatu Standard

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