Councillors vote for Dunedin super ward

Dunedin looks set for a major change to its local government voting system, with the city council opting for a super ward that will mean the four wards taking in most of the urban area get dumped.

The vote yesterday was much closer than expected, with a late push for an election at-large, where the entire city from Aramoana to Taieri Mouth, and inland to Middlemarch, would be a single ward.

And councillors foreshadowed what they said was an eventual move to a single unitary authority for the city, with a merged regional and city council.

That, one councillor said, was as certain as "night follows day", with the philosophy of the move to an Auckland super city expected to flow south.

Under the super ward, Dunedin voters would no longer be restricted to voting for three or four councillors in their ward, and having no say on the rest.

The plan was developed after the council late last year appointed a review team of chairman Judge John Macdonald, Hilary Allison, Colin Scurr, Prof Geoff Kearsley and Mayor Peter Chin.

The council meeting yesterday was called to make a final decision on the issue, following the review and public consultation.

Now that decision has been made, there is a public appeal until October 15, with the Local Government Commission to rule on any appeals by April 10 next year.

Mayor Peter Chin moved a recommendation for the super ward, and said of the 41 submissions, only 13 wanted an election at-large.

That did not represent a major public push for the council to move in a direction other than what it had supported so far.

"I place my faith in the work the representative review team has done."

Deputy mayor Syd Brown seconded the motion, and noted there was "a small conflict of interest" with the council making a decision on its own system of voting.

The review team, however, was independent, had done a solid statistical analysis, and its recommendation should be followed.

But Cr Dave Cull disagreed.

There were anomalies with the west harbour area being in the same ward as Waikouaiti.

"They say: `What have we got to do with Waikouaiti?'."

Cr Cull said he favoured an election at-large system, with strengthened community boards.

Cr Fliss Butcher said she disagreed with Cr Brown's assertions.

"We've been elected to make decisions."

Cr Butcher said the people of Waikouaiti would be disenfranchised, as they would be able to vote for only one councillor, the mayor and their community board.

Cr Teresa Stevenson favoured an at-large system, but only if there were community boards introduced for urban areas.

If that option was not supported, she said the status quo should remain.

With the Auckland super city in the background, Cr Richard Walls said he was sure Dunedin would become a unitary authority in the next few years.

He supported the super ward system, as did Cr John Bezett, though Cr Bezett said his preference was for an at-large election.

That was "a step too far" at the moment, although the super ward would be stage one of changes in the future.

Cr Chris Staynes accepted the issue of the west harbour area being in the same ward as Waikouaiti because of the numbers required to make up a ward, but could not understand Mosgiel being a "community of interest" when it was no different from the rest of urban Dunedin.

The vote to approve the recommendation was won eight votes to five, with Crs Bill Acklin, Bezett, Brown, Neil Collins, Andrew Noone, Walls, Kate Wilson and Mr Chin for, and Crs Butcher, Cull, Staynes, Stevenson and Colin Weatherall against.


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