Mayor of Horowhenua Bernie Wanden has thrown his support behind the possibility of local Government terms being extended from three to four years.

His comments come after meeting with fellow Mayors at the annual Local Government New Zealand conference last week to discuss a variety of issues affecting their communities.

Mayor Wanden said the idea was conceptual only at this stage and would need the support of Central Government and the wider public support, but he could see merit in lengthening the term.

"I definitely believe that a four year term would be a good, positive thing for local Government," he said.

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"There are pros and cons on both sides, but times are changing...three years is not long enough to set a good decision making process."

Horowhenua Mayor Bernie Wanden.
Horowhenua Mayor Bernie Wanden.

Mayor Wanden said newly elected members took time to get bedded in their role and an extended term would give them time to absorb the complexities of council and make a more positive contribution.

It would give new councillors more time to learn their duties and get comfortable in their roles, thereby increasing councils' overall productivity.

"It takes a good while to understand the complexities of local Government. Even the more experienced councillors will tell you that," he said.

There would also be a cost saving for ratepayers in reducing the number of elections. The cost of the last election was approximately $180,000 – a four year cycle would save this complete amount each third electoral cycle.

There would also be reduced administration costs of setting up and inducting a new council, thereby increasing the operational efficiency of governance staff.

Another positive aspects in support of a four year term is that it could reduce voter fatigue that could see an increase in voter turnout, something most councils had struggled to increase at recent elections.

The glorious view of Horowhenua from the Tararua Ranges.
The glorious view of Horowhenua from the Tararua Ranges.

There would also be an opportunity for councillors to make stable long term decisions on larger projects and long term planning. It would promote longer term thinking and decision-making by councillors and allow for more productive working time.

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Mayor Wanden said every term of council was required to revisit the Long Term Plan, an exhaustive exercise usually on the second year of a triennium, and one that monopolised the time of councillors and staff.

"It's not only an expensive exercise, it also happens halfway through the term. All our efforts are concentrated on a Long Term Plan that is revisited every three years," he said.

But Wanden stressed that the local government forums were an opportunity discuss the merit of the different remits. Any firm decisions would have to be open to a wider public decision-making process involving Central Government.

"It's not going to happen tomorrow," he said.