Votes cast for the sta­tus quo

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By MARY-JO TO­HILL

It turns out the coun­cil elec­tion model, even if it was ‘‘broke’’, would be too hard to fix. At a meet­ing last week, the Cen­tral Otago Dis­trict Coun­cil threw out the idea of at-large vot­ing, which would have in­tro­duced dis­trict-wide vot­ing to elect eight coun­cil­lors plus the mayor, and ditched a pro­posal to com­bine the Alexan­dra, Earn­scle­ugh-Manuherikia community boards, while re­tain­ing the other three boards, Cromwell, Man­iototo and Roxburgh, for the time be­ing. This op­tion aimed to at­tract a wider skills mix and de­mo­graphic of elected mem­bers, and had the po­ten­tial to re­duce parochial­ism and in­crease voter choice, while keep­ing the community boards struc­ture. It just about ticked all the boxes, but the ma­jor­ity of ratepay­ers and some coun­cil­lors were op­posed to the cre­ation of a ‘‘Vin­cent’’ ward from the amal­ga­ma­tion of the Alexan­dra, Earn­scle­ugh-Manuherikia wards. Of the ratepay­ers who made sub­mis­sions, 96 were against this pro­posal and 24 were in sup­port, with an over­rid­ing mes­sage that at-large elec­tions ran the risk of smaller com­mu­ni­ties los­ing their lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and that coun­cil­lors’ al­ready high work­load would in­crease with fewer in of­fice. The coun­cil opted to stay with the ‘‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’’ sta­tus quo – that is, ward-based elec­tions and 10 coun­cil­lors plus the mayor. The five community boards would re­main, and the only change was the re-nam­ing of Roxburgh Community Board as Te­viot Val­ley. With coun­cil­lors split on the is­sue, and Cromwell mem­ber Cr Gor­don Ste­wart, who had been chas­tised for his vo­cal op­po­si­tion to the change opt­ing not to vote, Mayor Tony Lep­per used his cast­ing vote to re­tain the sta­tus quo. ‘‘Ini­tially I thought a coun­cil elected at-large would be use­ful in de­ci­sion mak­ing be­cause they would be re­spon­si­ble for the en­tire dis­trict, but af­ter Fri­day [the re­cent sub­mis­sions hear­ing], I’m think­ing what we’ve got is not bad, and what will you get if you change.’’

Queen­stown Lakes mayor: Vanessa van Uden

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