Whangārei District Council (WDC) is informally surveying its almost 100,000 residents as part of bringing Māori wards in for the first time.
The informal survey "Tōu Kaunihera, Tōu Kōwhiri - Your Council, Your Choice" is the first part of a five-step representation review/arotake whakaahuatanga process.
It comes ahead a full-blown formal consultation starting in June.
WDC has just 18 months to put together a new-look council in time for the October 8 2022 local government elections - after it voted in November to bring in Māori representation for that election and the following in 2025.
The survey started on April 7 and runs until May 7 and will go towards developing the single WDC representation review proposal that then goes out for the formal consultation starting June 30.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai said recently the representation review discussion would be the district's biggest ever.
Electoral Officer Dale Ofsoske earlier this month spoke to councillors at WDC's first representation review briefing since five of them on March 25 failed in their bid to overturn the council's November Māori wards vote.
Mai said after the March meeting she wanted the debate and interest around the council's Māori wards decision carried through into community engagement in the representation review process.
"I'm hoping this has elevated the thinking and discussion and engagement of the people of Whangārei," Mai said.
Three key factors must be considered in the representation review.
The first is what are the district's communities of interest, the second and third around representation - how these communities are effectively represented and how they are fairly represented.
Survey respondents are asked what community they identify with - geographical, tribal affiliations, historical, the whole of Whangārei district or other personal choice options.
WDC currently has six wards, two of which are city wards and four rural.
The two city wards are; Denby (three councillors - Gavin Benney, Tricia Cutforth, Jayne Golightly) and Okara (four councillors - Vince Cocurullo, Nick Connop, Phil Halse, Carol Peters).
The four rural wards are; Bream Bay (two councillors - Ken Couper, Shelley Deeming), Hikurangi–Coastal (two councillors - Greg Martin, Anna Murphy), Mangakahia-Maungatapere (one councillor - Simon Reid) and Whangārei Heads (one councillor - Greg Innes Deputy Mayor).
Survey respondents are asked whether Whangārei should still be divided into wards or have only the district's external boundaries and if wards were in place should there be fewer, more or no wards. They are also asked whether they are happy with the current ward names.
There could be up to three Māori wards across Whangārei District, but this depends on the shape of the council including total councillor numbers.
Māori wards are those where electors on the Māori electoral roll vote for candidates standing in a Māori ward. These wards sit alongside general wards.
Candidates standing for election in Māori wards do not have to be of Māori descent.
Candidates cannot stand for the general and Māori wards at the same time.
Electors on the Māori electoral roll can't vote for candidates in a general ward while electors on the general electoral roll cannot vote for Māori ward candidates.
Voters can be enrolled and vote in only one ward.
An elector can enrol in the general or Māori electoral roles. A person who is not of Māori descent can only enrol on the general electoral roll.
WDC Māori ward councillors must represent the district's entire community, signing an oath to honour this commitment, as all councillors are required to do when they officially step into their three-year term.
For more WDC Māori wards information www.wdc.govt.nz/Wards
Ofsoske canvassed councillors at the meeting on their views on a range of representation aspects. These included how many councillors might be on the council after the representation review.
There was also discussion around how many of these might be general and Māori ward councillors. The number of general and Māori wards was also considered. One option included wiping all current wards.
Ofsoske also gathered councillor feedback on how councillors might be elected. This included one option was electing councillors at large across the district with a single, district-wide ward rather than the current six.
Other options included electing councillors on a ward basis or a mix of both at large and wards
WDC will create a representation review proposal to go out for public consultation on June 24.
The formal submission period for this initial proposal runs from June 30 to July 31.
Those who want to speak about their submissions can do so at submissions hearings on August 16 and 17.
The council will then develop its final proposal for representation across the district after considering the submissions.
The month from September 10–October 11 has been set for any formal appeals and objections that may arise.
The Local Government Commission makes the final decision on the new-look council if there are any formal appeals or objections. It will consider these in April next year then make its decision on how the district will be represented in time for the 2022 and 2025 triennial local body elections.
For more about the representation review and the survey form https://www.wdc.govt.nz/News-and-events/Have-your-say/Rep-Review