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The number of wards has been more than halved and four community boards rearranged or abolished following a representational review.
The final proposal was formally notified last weekend. If there are no appeals lodged by the December 12 deadline, the new structure will be the basis on which councillors and community board members are elected at next year's local body elections.
Council policy and planning manager Susan Cuthbert said last week the reduction in the number of wards was the biggest change since the council was formed in 1989.
The move to larger wards meant voters could no longer be guaranteed the councillor they favoured would be from their immediate area, she said.
Multiple councillors would be elected in all wards bar one, but there was no guarantee the successful candidates would represent a complete geographic spread across the council's area, which stretches from above Milford Sound in the north to Stewart Island in the south and takes in all of Southland apart from the Fiordland National Park and the urban centres of Invercargill and Gore.
The council received 46 submissions, many opposing the change, but change was necessary, Ms Cuthbert said.
Under the Local Electorate Act 2001, councils had to ensure each councillor represented about the same number of voters, plus or minus 10%. The exception was very remote or island communities.
Southland's ward structure needed to change because the population of the district was not evenly spread, Ms Cuthbert said.
"The council considered the pros and cons of several options and decided this one was the best of a bad bunch."
Under the new structure, 11 councillors will represent between about 2300 and 2700 people each, while one councillor will represent the 396 people living on Stewart Island.
There will be eight community boards and 19 community development area subcommittees, each of which Ms Cuthbert said had direct access to council staff and the power to set their own spending priorities and targeted rates.
Southland District Council representational changes:
• Council to retain current structure of 12 councillors plus a mayor
• Number of wards cut from 12 to five
• Wyndham and Edendale community boards amalgamated into one board
• Lumsden, Riversdale and Balfour community boards to be abolished and reconstituted as community development area subcommittees