Mayor airs fears over ward reform
Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno and two councillors say they fear the voices of smaller communities could be lost if proposed changes to its structure are adopted.
At a policy review committee meeting in Invercargill yesterday, most district councillors supported changing the number of wards from 12 to five, going from one councillor per ward to three councillors each for three wards, two councillors for one ward, and retaining one councillor for Stewart Island.
The proposal, which will be put out for public consultation, also changes the number of community boards, from 12 to seven, and the number of community development area subcommittees increasing from 16 to 20.
However, after a prolonged and passionate discussion, Mrs Cardno and councillors Stuart Baird and Wally Jack voted against it.
All three prefer having 10 ward councillors and two at-large councillors.
Mrs Cardno said larger centres could dominate smaller areas if the change went ahead, particularly if there were high voter turnouts based on issues in one particular centre.
Mr Baird and Mr Jack were also concerned the existing proposal had not been presented to ratepayers during a series of public meetings and in documents sent out to homes within the district.
But Cr Paul Duffy, who chaired the meeting, said the council's pre-consultation process had indicated "loud and clear" residents were not in favour of councillors-at-large. The proposed changes were an idea raised in public meetings, he said.
Under the Local Electoral Act, councils must review their representation every six years, and each elected member must represent the same number of people, plus or minus 10 per cent - which only two wards, Riverton and Wallacetown, comply with.
Independent consultant Janette Malcolm said while most people were in favour of the status quo, people acknowledged council needed to have a system that complied with legislation "to be in charge of your own destiny".
If the district council's representation system did not comply, it could be appealed by a member of the public and a final decision would be made by the Local Government Commission, she said.
Cr Diane Ridley said she hoped more people, other than those who attended a series of public meetings, had their say on the issue.
"One-hundred-and-eighty-odd people out of 30,000 is pathetic, really - it affects them all. I think it will really set the cats among the pigeons and I think we will really find out how people feel about it [through submissions]."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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