This time next year the local government elections will be done and dusted.
A newly elected group of representatives will be eagerly waiting to be sworn in and take office, keen to be part of the council for the following three years.
The 2022/2025 council will have some change from the current council with the addition of a Māori Ward, resulting in one additional councillor, and some minor changes to the urban and rural ward boundaries. This was decided at a policy and services committee meeting held last week and follows a period of public consultation from which 16 submissions were received.
The ward boundary changes are minimal and will change the residential area of the Mercade Estate from the rural to the urban ward, plus an area of Pembroke Rd, near Hunt Rd, will also be included in the urban ward. This has no effect on the number of councillors representing each ward which will remain at four councillors representing the rural ward and six representing the urban ward.
In saying that, I don't recall many situations, maybe none even, where councillors have voted on issues in a block group, with a rural versus urban argument. I think Stratford is lucky in that all councillors take a positive, holistic attitude towards their roles and endeavour to represent the whole of the district, rather than have a council operating in two parts.
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The number of councillors in each ward is based on a ratio calculation centred on the number of people resident in each ward. That prescribed ratio has to be maintained within set parameters, unless the ward covers the entire district, as will be the case with the Māori Ward. The next council will have an additional councillor from the new Māori Ward as part the mix. This person will be elected "at large" as the ward covers the entire district. The Mayor is elected in the same way.
People of Māori descent can choose between the Māori electoral roll and the general roll for the parliamentary elections and it is whichever roll they have chosen, that determines which ward they will vote in at the local government elections as well.
At present there are 334 people registered on the Māori electoral roll in the Stratford District, meaning they can vote in the new Māori Ward but not on the Urban or Rural Wards. Once elected the new councillor takes on the same responsibilities as all other elected representatives.
Let's not forget, that everyone also has a vote in the Mayoral election.
One misconception I hear occasionally is about the voting process within council, that some councillors have more votes than others. That is not the case. Whenever councillors are asked to vote on any issue, each councillor and the Mayor have one vote only. However, should the vote on any issue result in a draw, under council's standing orders, the chairman of the meeting will have a second or casting vote; thankfully that rarely happens.
Another misconception is that by adding another councillor to the council, wage costs will rise. That too, is not the case. Councillor's wages are set by an independent, external organisation being the Remuneration Authority that also sets the wages of Members of Parliament and others. The pay rates are reviewed annually and the annual wage allocation for each council is in the form of a single lump sum amount known as "the pool". This amount is then divvied by among councillors and can be used to recognise or reward people with additional responsibilities such as a committee chairman. Regardless of how it is divided up or how many councillors there are, the total wage pool does not increase, meaning no extra costs for ratepayers.
Nominations for the 2022 local government elections open on 15 July 2022.