Hearing to decide voting system

The number of Dunedin City Council wards, community boards, and even the number of councillors will be argued next week, when the Local Government Commission visits for a hearing to decide the future of the city's voting system.

Commission chief executive Donald Riezebos said yesterday the hearing, set down for December 16, could make a decision based on the variations around the status quo, the council's preferred decision, or any of the arguments raised by people who appealed a recent council decision to change the system.

The commission was required to make a final decision after a plan to dump inner-city wards attracted 12 appeals.

In June, the council voted to support the recommendation of a representation review team of Judge John Macdonald, Hilary Allison and Prof Geoff Kearsley to get rid of its four city wards in favour of a central ward with 11 councillors, a Mosgiel-Taieri ward with two councillors and a Waikouaiti-Chalmers ward with one councillor.

The change would mean most 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 went to hearings in August, and in September, the council again voted to support the idea.

That vote 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.

There were 12 appeals with a mix of arguments, ranging from those who wanted an election at large, those who wanted to keep the status quo, to others who wanted changes to community boards.

Mr Riezebos said only those who had made submissions could appeal, which cut the number to 10.

The commissioners expected to hear from four appellants who had indicated they wished to speak, though one person had not yet been contacted.

The public hearing would listen first to the council's argument, then community boards and appellants, then the council had the right of reply.

A decision had to be made by April 10, though would probably come early in the new year.

Mr Riezebos said the commission could confirm the council's decision, react to issues raised in the appeals, go with the status quo, or variations on any of those.

The commissioners

- Sue Piper (chairwoman): Former Wellington city councillor, served on boards in the public and non-government sectors.

- Gwen Bull: Member of the Auckland Regional Council from 1995 to 2004, chairwoman of the council from 2002 to 2004.

- Grant Kirby: Held senior positions in the Auckland City Council, former chairman of the Local Government Commission, was appointed as commissioner to act in place of the Rodney District Council in 2000 and 2001.

- david.loughrey@odt.co.nz


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