Mayor swings it for wards
Has the council made the right choice?
An impassioned plea from Timaru Mayor Janie Annear yesterday was enough to restore ward-elected councillors as the voting option the public will comment on for next year's election.
The 5-4 vote left Mrs Annear briefly speechless before commenting "well councillors, that's a turn-up for the books".
Only seconds before she had congratulated Cr Richard Lyon on bringing the notice of motion which sought to overturn the council's previous decision to go to the public with a 10 councillors elected at large option for the next election. At that stage she said it looked likely the vote would be lost.
With that, the 70-minute discussion before more than 50 members of the public ended, and the vote revealed Mrs Annear and councillors Lyon, Damon Odey, Pat Mulvey and Tracy Tierney supporting the motion that the proposal the public will comment on as part of the representation review process be nine councillors elected in three wards.
The option proposes six councillors be elected to the Timaru ward (there are seven now), two in Temuka-Pleasant Point and one in Geraldine.
The vote was greeted with applause from the public gallery even though there were some who were clearly surprised by the outcome as Cr Tierney had voted for the at-large option a month ago.
Speaking after the meeting, Cr Tierney said it had been Mrs Annear's comments that had swayed her.
"I was listening really honestly to what Janie said, that it was not an academic debate. I have been listening to the people."
Her final decision was a pragmatic one, she said, based on the fact the community did not support the at-large option at this stage. She still intended discussing the various options with the public during the consultation process.
Geraldine Community Board chairwoman Rosie Morten was given speaking rights at yesterday's meeting due to the death last month of Cr Michael Oliver.
Mrs Annear said "not in her wildest dreams" had she thought the council would have gone to public consultation on the at-large option "because it was clear that option takes voting right away from communities of interest. That was quite provocative".
She said the rural/urban rift was strong when she was first on the council, but was overcome.
"The public meeting at Pleasant Point [last week] was a strong, angry reaction. The community boards are all against it. It can't get much clearer, it's driving a wedge between us," she said of the at-large option.
Cr Lyon said he was pleased with the outcome.
"When you put up a motion you always think you have a chance."
The month-long public consultation period starts on Saturday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Names on council voting papers should be listed:Related story: Council to decide on voting papers