LGC to decide on structure

The Local Government Commission will decide how Southland district ratepayers are represented, following challenges to the proposal put forward by the Southland District Council.

The council carried out a representational review this year and proposed the biggest structural change in the authority's 23-year history, cutting the number of wards from 12 to five and rearranging or abolishing four community boards.

When the proposal was finalised in October, council policy and planning manager Susan Cuthbert said the reduction in the number of wards was a ''quite radical change'' and meant voters could no longer be guaranteed the councillor they favoured would be from their immediate area.

The change was necessary because legislation said councillors should represent about the same number of voters, plus or minus 10%, (with the exception of very remote or island communities) and Southland's population was not evenly spread.

Ratepayers and residents had until December 12

to appeal and six parties did so, council chief executive David Adamson said. They were Federated Farmers, Alan Leitch, John Hogg, the Nightcaps Community Development Area subcommittee, Edward Blackburn and the Wallace Community Board.

The council would forward the appeals to the Local Government Commission which would consider the final proposal, submissions received and information regarding population and communities of interest, he said.

''The commission will review the representation arrangement for Southland District on the basis of what is fair and effective representation and make a decision by April 11 [in time] for the local government elections in October.''

The commission could ask questions but was not obliged to hold meetings with the council or anybody who had appealed or objected, he said.