Have your say on representation review; NRC

4 Aug 2021, 9:21 AM

Northlanders’ views are being sought on the number of regional councillors, the areas they’re elected from and the names of the constituencies they’ll represent.

Chair Penny Smart says after its decision earlier this year to establish Māori constituencies, the Northland Regional Council is undertaking a representation review to ensure new arrangements are in place for the local body elections next year.

Among the issues the council is looking at – and seeking public feedback on – are:

  • The total number of councillors
  • The number and boundaries of general and Māori constituencies (includes whether Māori councillors should be elected from one or more Māori constituencies)
  • The names of the general and Māori constituencies.

Chair Smart says it’s important to bear in mind the council’s decisions to establish Māori constituencies and to use the First Past the Post (FPP) electoral system have already been made and can’t be changed.

“We can’t consider feedback on whether Māori constituencies should be established – that decision has already been made and can’t be reversed through this representation process.”

Currently the council has nine councillors representing seven constituencies. Two of those constituencies – Coastal North and Whangārei Urban – currently have two councillors each.

The council is recommending a new model that would still have nine councillors; seven elected from seven general constituencies (one from each) and two councillors elected from one region-wide Māori constituency, to be called Te Raki, and with an electoral population of approximately 48,000.

The general constituencies would be Far North (with an electoral population of 21,500 people), Coastal Central (20,800), Coastal South (21,000), Kaipara (19,900), Mid North (20,300), Whangārei Central (22,300) and Bay of Islands-Whangaroa (21,100).

(Legally, each constituency must have roughly the same number of constituents, plus or minus 10 percent).

The council says it has worked with a range of people, including its Māori advisory group, to prepare a model it thinks will best serve its communities.

“At its heart, the review is about how best to achieve fair and effective representation for Northlanders, within the legislative requirements councils are bound by.”

Aside from the new Te Raki Māori constituency, which only those on the Māori electoral roll could vote for, the proposed key changes from the current model are:

  • The proposed Whangārei Central general constituency is smaller and confined to the city centre. There would be a single councillor (instead of the current two) recognising that people living in Whangārei have easy access to the council’s main office, services and councillors unlike some more remote parts of the region
  • The outer fringes/suburbs of Whangārei are reflected in the surrounding constituencies
  • A new Mid North general constituency incorporating Hikurangi, Towai, Kawakawa and Moerewa to ensure these communities are well represented
  • A new general constituency specific to the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa area which has been identified as a clear community of interest and experiencing considerable growth.

Meanwhile, Chair Smart says while eventually the council would like to establish individual Māori constituencies, “we recognise that this is a complex matter that needs time to get it right”.

To that end, it was proposing to start with a single, region-wide Māori constituency with this reviewed in the next term of council when it had a better understanding of how Māori representation was working in practice.

Submissions can be made from Tuesday 10 August until Friday 10 September, with hearings scheduled for Tuesday 28 September.

Council is also encouraging people to tune in to an online event on Thursday 19 August from 6pm to 7:30pm, to find out more and ask questions about the process.

“We’ll also be popping up at markets around the region during August so people can drop by and kōrero with us.”

Full details of the representation review, information for the online event and market dates and times will be posted on the council’s website www.nrc.govt.nz/representationmatters