- One district-wide Māori ward, with 2 councillors elected district-wide
- One district-wide general ward, with 10 councillors elected district-wide
- A mayor elected at-large (across both Māori and general wards)
- Total 13
- No community boards.
On Tuesday, September 7, our council met (in the online sense, as we were still in alert level 3), to debate and decide the final proposal for our Representation Review 2021. In an exciting turn of events, a district-wide representation option with 12 councillors and one mayor was tabled and, when put to the final vote, won with a majority of 7-6 (with one abstention).
That's a simplified version of events, however the outcome remains: our final proposal for the 2021 Representation Review is a wild card and, if accepted, will change the landscape of our voting process like never before.
District-wide representation enables anyone eligible for voting in our district to vote for any candidate running for council, regardless of where they live. Essentially, it's a level playing field for both candidates and voters. If this final proposal is accepted, our district would have:
• One district-wide Māori ward, with two councillors elected district-wide
• One district-wide general ward, with 10 councillors elected district-wide
• A mayor elected at-large (across both Māori and general wards)
• Total 13
• No community boards.
I am supportive of this proposal, as I believe it will bring more diversity to our decision making, allowing our community to vote for candidates based on what they stand for, not what ward they stand in.
Having an uneven number of elected members is also much better for decision-making in chambers, avoiding the dreaded even split, with the option of the mayor using a casting vote. Trust me, that's a position no mayor enjoys.
The fact remains, however, that this is not the option we consulted on in our initial proposal.
Although a district-wide general ward was included as an option in our informal survey, it wasn't the option councillors chose to consult on for our initial proposal.
Originally, we went out for consultation on a modified status quo model, which featured boundary changes and an amalgamation of the Okara and Denby wards.
In that model, we were bound by conditions of the Local Electoral Act and, when we put the proposal out, we knew that parts of it made no sense, especially for parts of our Kamo, Maunu and Toetoe communities.
The community submissions we received underlined the flaws in that proposal, so while this new decision is a complete turnaround for us all, I believe it is turning us in the right direction. The decision was also based on submissions received.
If you or anyone you know has any appeals or objections they'd like to make on the district-wide proposal, you will be able to lodge these until October 11.
The final decision is likely to be made by the Local Government Commission, with a final ruling expected by April 2022.
More information on this process is available on our website at www.wdc.govt.nz/HaveYourSay, or you can call the council contact centre for help.
I'd also like to remind everyone that this week is Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori 2021. In the tumult of level changes and Covid news, it's easy to miss these events, so please – remember to korero Māori wherever possible this week and join millions of New Zealanders at 12 noon tomorrow Tuesday, September 14 in the Māori Language Moment.
It can be as simple as greeting your friends, family or workmates in te reo Māori – so why not give it a go?
Kia kaha te reo Māori!
Kia kaha Aotearoa!
• Sheryl Mai is mayor of Whangārei.