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Mr Sowry, a former National cabinet minister and the opposition representative on the commission, made his observation during a public hearing in Dunedin yesterday on the commission’s proposed changes to electorate boundaries.
The commission’s draft borders for the southern electorates have attracted dozens of objections.
The highest level of concerns centre on the borders of Clutha-Southland and Waitaki, as to whether they adequately reflect the interests of Southland, Queenstown Lakes and Clutha voters.
‘‘I do think it [a Central Otago-Queenstown Lakes district seat] is going to come, but I think it is 20 years away,’’ Mr Sowry said.
The commission had tried to create such a seat, but modelling population to possible borders greatly distorted the shape of the other southern electorates, he said.
The commission is set up every six years to determine electorate boundaries for the following two elections.
Under the Electoral Act there must be 16 general seats in
the South Island, a requirement which has led to some large
and geographically unusual electorates.
Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan, whose territorial authority faces being split between three different electorates if the proposed borders are adopted, said that residents were being pushed
in and out of electorates to suit
‘‘This is important for Clutha and for the lower South Island,’’ he said.
‘‘It is inevitable with the growth of Queenstown and Wanaka that very soon their population rate will justify their own electorate.
‘‘You can choose to play the lower South Island like an accordion, or you can come to the conclusion we have, that there is a better way.’’
Mr Cadogan’s brother, Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan, caused a surprise when he tempered his opposition to the proposed changes.
While not withdrawing his written objections against the new borders — in which he had called for a new Otago seat — Mr Cadogan said he now grudgingly accepted the commission’s proposals were the only option they could come up with to meet the requirements of the law.
‘‘I can see why you had to do what you have had to do ... but I still don’t particularly like it.’’
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean’s submission objected to proposals from some submitters to move Wanaka out of her electorate.
Mrs Dean said in all her years as electorate MP no-one from Wanaka had suggested they wanted to be in the same electorate as Queenstown, and suggested the town’s closest links were instead with Cromwell.
She also bade a regretful farewell to the towns of Clyde, Roxburgh and Alexandra, which are provisionally moving into Clutha-Southland, saying while she was ‘‘fiercely proprietary’’ of her electorate, she accepted the commission needed to change some borders to achieve its task.
Public hearings of submissions continue this month. Electorate boundaries and names will be finalised in April.