Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Rotorua representation arrangements confirmed

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Proposed changes to the Rotorua Lakes Council's representation arrangements have been confirmed, in a decision released by the Representation Review Commission.

But, the decision released today has not pleased some of the groups who appealed against the new arrangements.

In December, the council decided to reduce the number of councillors from 12 to 10, retain the "at large" voting system, retain the Rotorua Lakes Community Board - with the addition of Hamurana - and establish a second community board to represent the rural sector.

Rotorua residents had a month to appeal the decision and an appeal hearing was held last month by the Representation Review Commission.

Four appeals and one "objection" were lodged against the decisions.

Appealing the decision were the Rotorua Lakes Community Board, Rotorua/Taupo Federated Farmers, and residents Allan Estcourt and Stewart Graham.

The "objection" was received from the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers group "despite the fact there was no right of objection", the decision stated, going on to say that even though the group did not make a submission, the commission decided to hear the group anyway.

The Rotorua Lakes Community Board wanted the commission to add an extra member to represent Hamurana, increasing the board from four members to five.

Federated Farmers did not think a four person rural community board was a good idea and asked for separate wards to represent rural interests.

Other submitters felt 10 councillors were not enough and the council should revert to the old ward system.

The decision stated "it [was] appropriate to let the council's proposed approach to working with the community boards to become established before deciding on any increase in board members.

"The approach involves a focus on councillor portfolios and locational councillors for identified areas of the district."

The commission said the council's proposal to reassess delegations to the community boards and make recommendations to the new council, after October's elections, was sufficient.

It also said it was happy with 10 councillors considering the fact there would now be two community boards to represent the lakes and rural communities.

Lakes Community Board chairman Geoff Palmer said he was disappointed "we didn't get what we thought was a reasonable request to get another board member, but hopefully it will open the door for more discussion on this".

"But I'm pleased to see we have some company with the rural community board and between the two of us it will see about 20 per cent of the district being able to vote for its own representatives as well as for the council in general."

Rotorua/Taupo Federated Farmers committee member Neil Heather said now the rural sector had no choice in the matter it would try and work with the community board approach.

"We didn't get what we wanted but we'll try and get some rural people who have time time to go on a board. We are all running businesses, but we'll try and get some good candidates on board.

"I won't be putting my name forward," he said.

Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers group mayoral candidate Dr Reynold Macpherson said he was supportive of the outcomes, but would have preferred to have 12 councillors rather than 10.

"And particularly the establishment of a rural community board, which was long overdue."

Councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, the Representative Review Working Party chairwoman, said having two community boards would allow some excellent people to come forward who would know their areas well.

"It gives them the opportunity to know more about the workings of the council. We want to strengthen our community boards now and we want them to have teeth and it also means through their skill set they bring when elected, they will be able to assist us as well. It broadens the skill base of the whole council."

She predicted that there would be new and different people putting their hands up to stand for the community boards.

"I just say that we can't always cling to the old ways, we have to be receptive to new ideas being put forward by new people who see a bright future for Rotorua. They will be absolutely delighted to think they've been listened to."

Mayor Steve Chadwick said the decision upheld a professional approach undertaken by the council.

"It was led by councillors in partnership with our community members and supported by the executive. This signals a new way forward for the council."

The changes will come into effect for the next local government election in October.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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