The rejection of a plan to get rid of rural wards and introduce community boards was a good result for the rural community writes Federated Farmers Gisborne/Wairoa provincial president Sandra Faulkner.
Rural representation is secure – for now.
The Local Government Commission's recent verdict rejecting Gisborne District Council's (GDC) plan to get rid of rural wards and introduce community boards was a good result for the rural community.
Our wards will stay, along with their valuable representation of rural people around the council table.
Every six years councils are required to review their representation arrangements and the number of councillors.
Gisborne was due in 2018 and council got underway in March with an initial proposal that retained five wards, made some boundary adjustments, and added a councillor for Gisborne City.
Read more from Federated Farmers here.
Not many folk noticed this was going on, partly because no radical change was contemplated.
Thirty-one submissions arrived at council, a good share of which supported what was then suggested.
But this was to be no ordinary process.
When council's final proposal was set out in the month of May the wards were gone, with all councillors to be elected 'at large' and reduced in number to nine, three community boards were to be established.
For rural populations community boards are generally thought of as toothless talk shops - totally inadequate as a substitute for ward councillors.
On top of weakening the rural voice, council would have struggled with only nine councillors given Gisborne's dual unitary role of district and regional council.
At the Commission's hearings in October numerous objectors were united in their concern that the council's plan had so substantively transitioned.
In the Commission's final determination they acknowledged the flaws in the process, along with the need for distinct rural representation, and kept the status quo.
This is an important decision for rural ratepayers; by getting organised quickly and stepping up together our community will all have a place at the council table.