Return to 'River Rd syndrome' feared
Should Hamilton City Council adopt city-wide voting?
Fears of the rich and powerful or political tickets dominating Hamilton's local body elections have been aired as councillors debate whether to scrap the ward system.
A proposed move to a city-wide election of councillors has already raised fears of a "River Rd syndrome" in which wealthy residents could dominate the council.
After a lengthy discussion, councillors yesterday voted 6-5 to adopt an initial city-wide proposal under which the council would ditch its wards and reduce the number of councillors from 12 to 10.
Formal public consultation on the representation review will start next week ahead of a final council resolution on September 27.
The council has already sought informal public feedback with views indicating a leaning toward the introduction of city-wide voting.
But councillor Dave Macpherson was among a group of councillors who warned that scrapping the wards risked a return to wealthy citizens dominating the council chambers. He said the ward system promoted diverse representation and was a response to the "River Rd syndrome" of the 1960s when most city councillors lived on River Rd.
Under a move to city-wide voting, limits on councillors' campaign budgets would increase, benefiting some candidates while pricing "others out of the market", he said.
Councillors Daphne Bell, Martin Gallagher, Pippa Mahood and Angela O'Leary also voted against the city-wide voting option.
Mr Gallagher said Hamilton's councils had been described as a collection of "feisty individuals" but scrapping the ward system would increase the chances of political tickets winning seats.
He said the Government's proposed reforms of local government could mean a change for the city's boundaries in the near future and he advocated the council stick with the status quo.
In reply, Ewan Wilson said the notion of wards was promoted only at election time, whereas the issues councillors faced were frequently city-wide issues.
Mr Wilson said the view that wealthy candidates would dominate city-wide elections was "ridiculous", citing the example of an Auckland councillor who got elected using social media at little cost.
Mayor Julie Hardaker said informal feedback showed support for a city-wide election approach, adding that testing the proposed option in the community would encourage people to debate how they wanted representation to be organised in their city.
Current arrangement: Two wards (east and west), 12 councillors plus the mayor, six councillors per ward, no community boards.
Proposed option: No wards, reduced to 10 councillors plus the mayor, no community boards.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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