Council debates voting system

It could be standing room only in the council chamber this afternoon, when residents are expected to show up by the busload as Timaru district councillors attempt to come up with a voting system for next year's election.

As part of the representation review process, councillors have already voted 6-5 in favour of 10 councillors being elected at large, rather than being elected to the existing three wards. However, a notice of motion from Pleasant Point-Temuka ward councillor Richard Lyon will see the issue discussed again this afternoon.

He wants the council to go to the public with an option that would have nine councillors elected through the existing ward system. Changes to the district's population mean the present system, which elects seven councillors in the Timaru ward, one in Geraldine and two in Temuka-Pleasant Point, is not an option. The nine-councillor option would have one less councillor elected to the Timaru ward.

"It is the single issue which has created the most attention in the 18 years I have been in local government," district mayor Janie Annear said yesterday.

Mrs Annear is one of the four to have signed the notice of motion calling for the ward-based councillor option. "There has been more discussion on this, and from a vast range of people," she said, adding a meeting room adjacent to the council chamber was available to accommodate the public gallery if required. She would not predict which way the vote was likely to go.

All three community boards - Geraldine, Temuka and Pleasant Point - have come out against the at-large voting option, fearing it would mean the loss of representation in those areas.

A public meeting in Pleasant Point last week attracted 75 people, and meeting chairman Mark Jackson was expecting some of those people to be in the council chamber for the meeting.

"The timing [4pm] makes it hard for some people to get there, but there are certainly some members of the [Pleasant Point] community board planning to be there as well as members of the public."

By late yesterday afternoon all seats on a bus coming from Geraldine were booked.

Temuka-Pleasant Point councillors Lyon and Pat Mulvey said they had spoken to individuals from their respective areas who planned to attend the meeting.

Once the council comes up with its preferred representation system for the 2013 election, it will be put out for public consultation for one month from this weekend. The council is then expected to hear the submissions before confirming its final proposal. That decision could be appealed to the Local Government Commission.

The Timaru Herald