Down-size good move
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.