Weekly column by Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan
On Saturday I was reminded of how diverse our communities are getting. The Office of Ethnic Communities held a regional hui at Southwards with representatives coming from Kāpiti and the Horowhenua. It was also an opportunity to meet the new regional manager for community engagement Dr Kudakwashe Tuwe. Originally from Zimbabwe, he gave a personal account of his struggle to adjust to the new culture and employment prospects and his eventual success. We heard how the expanding diversity of New Zealand's demographics has seen the government increase its resources to help empower and advocate for these communities.
The event provided opportunities for participants to meet other government agencies, hear and share about local community development initiatives and also find out about current funding opportunities.
The government commitment was highlighted by news of changes which will see the launch of a new ministry with the Office of Ethnic Communities, currently under the Department of Internal Affairs, moved to the new ministry expected to be called the Ministry of Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities, led by the Hon. Priyanca Radhakrishnan. It's worth noting that in Kāpiti the combined population of Pacific peoples, Asian and Middle Eastern/Latin American/African has increased from 4.8 per cent in 2006 to 8.2 per cent in 2018. The Māori population increased from 12.3 per cent to 14.7 per cent respectively. I'm mindful that despite the Kāpiti Coast demographics being 87.7 per cent European the democratic will of the people has seen a person of Asian descent elected mayor. It sends a positive message of diversity and inclusion.
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That brings me to the current public engagement process initiated by council to review our representation system. The elected council's role includes being the voice of the people. A voice that represents all the people who use or contribute to the facilities and services provided by council. We have to not only represent but also balance the differing interests of our communities. Our communities are always in transition. That's why every six years we are required by the Local Electoral Act 2001 to review our system of representation. Representation arrangements are to be determined such as to provide fair and effective representation for individuals and communities. The last such review was in 2015.
The review should look at the total number of councillors, whether we should have wards and if so the number, names and boundaries. And the same questions for community boards. Three things to consider in a review include identifying "communities of interests", establishing effective representation like the number of elected members, and finally ensuring fair representation. The latter defines a methodology whereby each elected member should represent about the same number of people with a +/- 10 per cent rule. It's possible to go outside that rule if it can be effectively shown that not to do so will split communities of interest.
The previous review saw Waikanae and Ōtaki outside the 10 per cent rule with Ōtaki at -13 per cent and Waikanae +26 per cent.
While our traditional communities of interest have been defined as Paekākāriki, Raumati, Paraparaumu, Waikanae and Ōtaki there are other potential definitions. If you took the view that our climate change crisis needs our representation system to reflect our ecology then you could promote a catchment-based representation. This could see the Waikanae River catchment which supplies potable water to the populations of Waikanae. Paraparaumu and Raumati (over 40,000 population) have four councillors. Or if you are concerned about climate change and the serious sea-level rise impact on our 1800 coastal properties you could rationalise the need for the creation of a coastal ward with one councillor representative.
Another interesting consideration could be the impact of the expressway and whether the changes in the traffic flow has changed existing communities of interest. These are just a number of ideas and there may be others. The idea is to challenge and test the current assumptions about our communities of interests. The three dimensions for recognising communities of interest include: the perception or the sense of belonging to an area/locality; the functional relating to the ability to meet the community's service requirements; and the political or the ability of the elected body to represent and reconcile the conflicts of all its members.
The review process starts with the early public input phases starting now with council putting out an initial proposal in August followed by a two-month consultation period and hearings with council making its decision on November 11. There is a public right for objections and an appeal process to the Local Government Commission.