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'Nine-strong council, including two Maori reps for next election'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

People voting for their regional council representatives at next year’s local body elections will elect a nine-strong council that will include two Māori councillors representing Te Raki, a new regionwide Māori constituency.

A Northland Regional Council (NRC) decision in October 2020 to establish Māori constituencies triggered the need to review its overall representation arrangements, last done in 2018.

Chair Penny Smart says while the council’s decisions to establish Māori constituencies and to use the First Past the Post (FPP) electoral system had already been made and couldn’t be changed through the Representation Review process, the NRC had recently sought public feedback on the number of councillors, the areas they’re elected from and the names of the constituencies they’ll represent.

After considering the 33 submissions received, the council decided to push ahead with a proposed model that would have nine councillors at the next local body elections.

Seven general councillors would be elected from seven general constituencies (one from each) and two Māori councillors elected from the region-wide Māori constituency (Te Raki), the latter with an electoral population of approximately 48,000.

The general constituencies would be Far North (with an electoral population of 21,500 people), Coastal Central (20,800), Coastal South (21,000), Kaipara (19,900), Mid North (20,300), Whangārei Central (22,300) and Bay of Islands-Whangaroa (21,100).

(Legally each councillor must represent roughly the same number of people (plus or minus 10%))

Aside from the Te Raki constituency, which only those on the Māori electoral roll could vote for, the proposed key changes from the current model are:

- The proposed Whangārei Central general constituency is smaller and confined to the city centre. There would be a single councillor (instead of the current two) recognising that people living in Whangārei have easy access to the council’s main office, services and councillors unlike some more remote parts of the region

- The outer fringes/suburbs of Whangārei are reflected in the surrounding constituencies

- A new Mid North general constituency incorporating Hikurangi, Towai, Kawakawa and Moerewa to ensure these communities are well represented

- A new general constituency specific to the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa area which has been identified as a clear community of interest and experiencing considerable growth.

Chair Smart says the council is grateful to all those who took the time to comment on its plans.

The council says at its heart, the review is about how best to achieve fair and effective representation for Northlanders, within the legislative requirements councils are bound by.

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