Down-size good move

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

The rec­om­men­da­tion from Porirua City Coun­cil to down-size its num­ber of rep­re­sen­ta­tives will likely be wel­comed in the com­mu­nity.

Drop­ping a seat from each of the three wards would be a nat­u­ral and log­i­cal re­sponse in a time when amal­ga­mated ser­vices are en­cour­aged and su­per-cities are de­bated. Less is more; more prac­ti­cal, and – in the case of Porirua – more fit­ting for its size.

This prob­a­bly should have hap­pened six years ago when the coun­cil last re­viewed its rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as re­quired by the Lo­cal Elec­toral Act.

City coun­cil­lors rep­re­sent the peo­ple, and Porirua has 13 for its pop­u­la­tion of 48,000. Welling­ton City Coun­cil man­ages to rep­re­sent more than four times as many peo­ple with only one more seat at the ta­ble, and Lower Hutt has one less rep­re­sen­ta­tive for twice our pop­u­la­tion.

Fewer coun­cil­lors should not mean less or weaker rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the com­mu­ni­ties of each of the three wards, and if the sup­posed mer­its of the STV vot­ing method ring true, di­ver­sity on the coun­cil should not suf­fer.

It’s funny how things play out. Had this change been in­tro­duced be­fore the 2010 elec­tions, re­sults would have sug­gested Bron­wyn Kropp (north­ern ward) – the youngest mem­ber of coun­cil – would not have made the cut. Nor would Liz Kelly (western ward) and Rob Rangi (east­ern ward), two of the three Porirua coun­cil­lors of Maori de­scent.

Of course, there’s not a lot sim­ple about STV, and I’m sure some­one would be quick to tell me the 2010 re­sults could have been de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent had there been one less it­er­a­tion of vot­ing to cal­cu­late.

What we can be sure of is the down-size would add some pep­per to the 2013 lo­cal body elec­tions, and re­duce the like­li­hood of an ‘‘ev­ery­body wins a prize’’ sce­nario, like we al­most had in the north in 2010, when six can­di­dates stood for the five seats.

What­ever the im­pact, res­i­dents who plan to sub­mit in favour of the rec­om­men­da­tion, should not do so on the as­sump­tion there is a cost ben­e­fit to ratepay­ers.

The coun­cil­lors’ re­mu­ner­a­tion – which is set by the Re­mu­ner­a­tion Au­thor­ity – is based on pop­u­la­tion size, not coun­cil size. The money pie would stay the same, but the por­tion size for each of the re­main­ing 10 rep­re­sen­ta­tives would in­crease.

All the coun­cil’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion re­view rec­om­men­da­tions make sense – par­tic­u­larly re­turn­ing Ranui to the east­ern ward and shy­ing away from coun­cil­lors elected ‘‘at large’’. Each coun­cil­lor should be re­spon­si­ble for, and to, a par­tic­u­lar sec­tion of the city – re­gard­less of their over­rid­ing obli­ga­tion to serve the city as a whole. I wish they could take it a step fur­ther so can­di­dates may only stand in the ward where they live.

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