Political representation on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council is shaping up to become a battleground between urban and rural interests.

Federated Farmers said representation on the council was out of balance in favour of Tauranga.

Branch president Darryl Jensen was seeking a reduction in Tauranga's five representatives on the 14-member council.

He said that because the regional council, with its three Māori constituencies, was at its legal limit of 14 councillors, the balance could be achieved by reducing representation for the populous but geographically small Tauranga constituency.


Federated Farmers' proposal to reduce Tauranga's representation to four councillors was at odds with the city council's thoughts on the representation review for the 2019 elections.

Jensen said he blamed the Local Electoral Act and its over-arching emphasis on population to determine effective representation. The representation of interests like farming had declined, despite their importance to the economy.

He cited the council's Eastern Bay constituency as an example of this. If the population rule had been vigorously applied, the Eastern Bay would have been in the ridiculous situation of having only one councillor. This was despite its large area and extensive farming and council drainage and flood protection works, he said.

Jensen wanted Eastern Bay's representation increased from two to three councillors although he acknowledged the suggestion was '' non-compliant''.

The region's councillors yesterday decided unanimously to stick with the status quo that gave Tauranga five councillors, the Western Bay, Rotorua and Eastern Bay two councillors each and the three Māori seats one councillor each.

Barring a successful appeal to the Local Government Commission, it meant political representation on the regional council would not be rebalanced until the 2022 elections.

This was despite Rotorua and the Eastern Bay currently falling outside the rules to ensure residents were fairly represented on the basis of population per councillor.

A report to the meeting said the Eastern Bay was over-represented by 25 per cent and Rotorua under-represented by 12 per cent. With the Bay's average representation being 22,127 people per councillor, it meant that both constituencies were outside the Electoral Act's 10 per cent plus or minus ratio.


Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said if the latest estimate for the city's population had been used instead of the requirement to use an older figure, the city would have been close to the upper limit of representation.

Statistics New Zealand's current population estimate for Tauranga was 134,600 whereas the representation for the city had been calculated on a population of 117,700.

Brownless said if he was really cheeky, he would have asked for representation to be rebalanced in time for the 2019 elections. However, he was successful in persuading the council to review representation prior to the 2022 election.

The council was required by law to review representation every six years but it had the option for an earlier review.

Councillor John Cronin (Tauranga) said it would become clear that Tauranga was entitled to a greater number of seats.

Councillor Norm Burning (Western Bay) warned that the next review would have to disregard territorial boundaries.

Councillor Stuart Crosby (Tauranga) said that while he respected submitters' right to appeal to the Local Government Commission, his experience with commission decisions was they could end up with a result that no one liked.

The council's representation proposal will be advertised on August 11, followed by one month for appeals and public objections. Because the proposal failed to comply with population representation ratios, the Local Government Commission would make the final decision.