The Buller District Council announced today it will have to hold a by-election in the Seddon ward, after learning that councillor Martin Hill is not a New Zealand citizen.

Under the Electoral Act 2001, all nominees standing for election must be a New Zealand citizen and sign a declaration as part of the process.

Buller is the second council to face a by-election after it was revealed a councillor was not a citizen.

Whangarei District councillor Jayne Golightly was forced to resign after learning she was not a New Zealand citizen.

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The Act does not require this to be checked or verified. However, sometimes checks are made.

Under the Act the position becomes vacant immediately when any ineligibility is discovered and unless it is less than 12 months before the next election, a by-election must be held.

Mayor Garry Howard said in a statement: "This is most regrettable and not something I would like to see happen to anybody that is giving their time to serve the community".

"However, council must comply with the Act and council's electoral officer has a duty to act to follow the legal process.

"I have encouraged Martin to get his citizenship and to stand again. There is an expense to a by-election, but it is not legally possible to hold a position and await citizenship."

When he announced he was running in the election last year,Hill said he had lived in Buller for a decade.

It was not clear today how his ineligibility had come to light. It is understood he is English.

- Greymouth Star

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