Editorial: More people, another MP

Last updated 05:00 08/10/2013

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This year's census figures show the country has 214,000 more mouths to feed, water and nurture since the previous census seven years ago.

Economically we should be up to the task: GDP growth has outpaced population growth in that time. But politically, a critical consequence of the census is that we will have one more electorate MP in Parliament after the next election.

That's fewer than some commentators were expecting, because the new figures show annual population growth has slowed from an average 58,000 from 2001-2006 to 31,000 from 2006-2013. But it is enough to trigger the creation of a new seat in the North Island, while the number of South Island (16) and Maori electorates (seven) remain the same.

The new electorate might reignite concerns that we have too many MPs already.

But creating a new electorate does not mean we will have one more MP in Parliament. The total number of seats was fixed at 120 when MMP was introduced and the new electorate MP will sit in Parliament at the expense of a list MP.

Hence we will have 71 electorate MPs and (if there is no so-called overhang) 49 list MPs. The location of the new electorate will be determined by the latest census data, which found the population has increased by 6.6 per cent in the North Island, but just 3.7 per cent in the South. The largest growth - it should come as no surprise - was in Auckland.

Representation Commission rules call for general electorates to have a minimum population of 56,696 and a maximum of 62,662.

Hamilton East, with 64,962 people, is among the seats with more than its fair share under the commission's seat-fixing quota system. It will be among 16 electorates that are shrunk. Tauranga will likely lose some territory too.

But there's work to be done before we learn who will be voting where next year. The surveyor-general must draw up draft boundaries and the Representation Commission must consider them, perhaps modify them, and then release proposed boundaries for public submissions. The job should be finished and the final boundaries set early next year.

When it's all over, many people will find they can no longer vote for or against National MP David Bennett, regardless of whether he stands for another term.

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- Waikato Times

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