Academic heads poll review panel

A University of Otago academic who warned of a ''vicious circle'' from low voter turnout in Dunedin City Council elections has been appointed to help revamp the system.

Associate Prof Janine Hayward, a political studies lecturer, has been named chairwoman of an independent review team appointed to carry out the council's representation review.

The review was required by law this term and would examine possible changes to the council's electoral landscape.

That included the role of community boards, the number of city councillors and whether they were elected in existing wards or ''at large'', among other possible changes.

The review, and Prof Hayward's appointment, came after voter turnout in last year's local body elections slumped to 43.10% in Dunedin.

That prompted Prof Hayward to warn at the time the low turnout risked creating a ''vicious circle'', with results further discouraging voters from having their say.

''The environmental, social and economic challenges we face in Dunedin require much more, not less, local democracy,'' she said.

Prof Hayward would be joined on the panel by Len Cook, a former government statistician, Paulette Tamati-Elliffe, a Ngai Tahu Maori language revitalisation programme leader, and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull.

Mr Cull had also expressed sympathy with the idea of one city-wide ward, allowing all voters to vote for all city council candidates, following last year's election.

In September, he said fewer councillors and a revamped three-ward system - each covering rural and urban territory - might be another option worth considering.

The review, which would include public consultation, was expected to be completed by August next year.

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